Subject: Australia congratulates Xanana Gusmao

Australia congratulates Xanana Gusmao

6th August 2007, 23:07 WST

Australia has congratulated Xanana Gusmao on his appointment as prime minister of East Timor.

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said: "It gives me great pleasure to congratulate Xanana Gusmao on his appointment as prime minister of East Timor."

"Mr Gusmao has been a key figure in East Timor's recent history, and Australia looks forward to working with him and his government," Mr Downer said in a statement.

He said the new prime minister and government are expected to be sworn on Wednesday.

"Australia also looks forward to working with East Timor's Fretilin party which, with 21 out of 65 seats, will have an important role to play in the new parliament," Mr Downer said.

"I encourage all parties to work constructively to allow East Timor to address its challenges and move forward.

"I would also like to call on the East Timorese people - who participated peacefully and in large numbers in the recent parliamentary election - to accept the outcome of the democratic process and refrain from violence."

Mr Downer said Australia was playing a key role in East Timor, with the full support of the East Timorese leadership.

"In addition to our significant development assistance program, we are providing troops and police officers to the International Stabilisation Force (ISF) and UN police (UNPOL) respectively. We currently deploy more than 1,000 troops to the ISF and 50 police officers to UNPOL."

Independence hero Gusmao was appointed prime minister after the president broke a deadlock following parliamentary elections, sparking violent protests by supporters of the former ruling party.

President Jose Ramos-Horta's move - after no single party won a majority in the elections more than a month ago - concludes a year of political turbulence following rioting that brought down the previous Fretilin government.

Ramos-Horta is an ally of Gusmao, the country's first president after independence from Indonesia. He had said he would use his constitutional right to decide the composition of the new government if parties failed to do so.

AAP


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