Subject: AFP: ETimor presidential hopefuls begin final campaigning

Agence France Presse

April 23, 2007

ETimor presidential hopefuls begin final campaigning

DILI, April 23 2007

Campaigning for the runoff in East Timor's presidential election began Monday with candidates Jose Ramos-Horta and Francisco Gutteres vowing a peaceful poll.

"We are conducting a door-to door campaign in a peaceful way and will not force people to choose Ramos-Horta," his spokesman Dionisio Babo told AFP.

Neither Ramos-Horta, the current prime minister, nor parliament chief Gutteres won an absolute majority in the April 9 election, prompting next month's runoff.

The presidential poll is the first since impoverished East Timor won independence in 2002, following a bloody split from occupying Indonesian forces.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Ramos-Horta campaigned Monday in a district southeast of the capital Dili.

"We are using this method because there were many people who did not have access to information from the radio and television (in the first round)," his spokesman said of the door-to-door campaign.

Gutteres, a former guerrilla fighter and candidate for the ruling Fretilin party, spoke briefly to party faithful in Dili before starting his door knock.

"We will not organise large mass rallies, so as to prevent violence and brawls, and we will instead use the door-to-door method to talk directly with the people," his spokesman told AFP.

The campaigning came amid reports of gunfire late Saturday between 200 armed civilians and police west of the capital.

"We have identified them as an armed civilian group ... I myself saw them use hand guns," said Liquica district police chief Manuel Maria dos Santos.

Four people were arrested but nobody was injured in the fighting, the Suara Timor Lorosae newspaper said.

The group, known as Colimau 2000, has been blamed for street violence in the past, police also said.

Polling was peaceful and voter turnout high on April 9 and Timorese are hoping the resulting stalemate will not plunge the impoverished nation into more turmoil and bloodshed.

Foreign peacekeepers have been on the streets for nearly a year after gang violence left 37 people dead and 150,000 homeless.

The nation also saw bloodshed under Indonesian rule after 1974, and an orgy of killing as it voted for independence in a UN-sponsored referendum in 1999.

Ramos-Horta won 22 percent of the vote earlier this month while Gutteres won 28 percent. The runoff for the largely ceremonial post will be held on May 9.


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