Subject: "Sore and sleepy' East Timor president coming round after assassination attempt

also Timor president regains consciousness: spokesman

Sore and sleepy' East Timor president coming round after assassination attempt

2008-02-21 09:21:54 -

DARWIN, Australia (AP) - East Timorese President Jose Ramos-Horta is starting to regain consciousness after being shot by would-be assassins earlier this month, doctors said Thursday. However, they said it could take months before he makes a full recovery.

Ramos-Horta spoke briefly to relatives at his hospital bedside in the northern Australian city of Darwin, aides said. He was rushed there in critical condition after the Feb. 11 attacks on him and East Timor Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao.

Ramos-Horta has undergone surgery five times since the shooting in Dili, the East Timorese capital, and has been heavily sedated to help him stay still and avoid pain.

Doctors say they are pleased with the progress of his recovery, and they are allowing him to regain consciousness.

Dr. Paul Goldrick, director of the intensive care unit at the Royal Darwin Hospital, said Ramos-Horta was expected to stay in the unit «for a period longer, maybe several weeks» and was likely to undergo further surgery during that time.

It would be several months before he was fully recovered, Goldrick told reporters.

Ramos-Horta woke up on Wednesday morning, and remains «sore and sleepy,» he said.

«I believe President Ramos-Horta has some understanding of why he is here and the consequences of it,» the doctor said. He did not elaborate.

Luke Gosling, an aide to Ramos-Horta who is in Darwin, said the president has «started saying a few words to close family.

East Timor Deputy Prime Minister Jose Luis Guterres welcomed the president's progress.

«I was very happy to hear that one of the first words he said to his family was `look after the people of East Timor,»' Guterres told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

Suspected rebels shot Ramos-Horta, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, near his home in Dili. An hour later, gunmen attacked Gusmao, who escaped unhurt.

Three U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation agents arrived in East Timor on Wednesday to join the probe into the attacks.

The country, which is patrolled by an Australian-led security force, has remained relatively peaceful since the attacks despite fears they would fuel instability.


Timor president regains consciousness: spokesman

8 hours ago

SYDNEY (AFP) ­ East Timorese President Jose Ramos-Horta has regained consciousness and spoken to family members after being in an induced coma since he was shot 10 days ago, his spokesman said Thursday.

"Doctors at Royal Darwin Hospital have reported that President Jose Ramos-Horta continued his steady recovery today and is slowly waking up," spokesman Luke Gosling said in a statement.

"The president has said a few words to family and is resting."

The Nobel peace laureate was airlifted to the hospital in northern Australia after being shot by rebel soldiers outside his home in Dili on February 11.

Hospital general manager Dr Len Notaras told AFP the president was aware that he had been shot but was probably unsure about details of the attack after being unconscious for so long.

"He certainly knows he was shot and that it was a very traumatic event. As to who did it and the rest of it, I'm not too sure about that and I would say that given the trauma there's probably a degree of confusion," he said.

The president had responded well to five operations to repair the damage caused by bullet wounds to the back and chest, including significant reconstruction work, Notaras said.

"His condition now, while it is still serious, is stable and it is a very satisfactory prognosis in the sense that without complications we expect him to continue on a smooth course to recovery."

Notaras said he expected Ramos-Horta to remain in intensive care for perhaps another week before the leader was in good enough condition to be moved to a more general area of the hospital.

Asked for a timeline for the president's recovery and ability to return to East Timor and to work, the doctor said he expected him to be up and moving "and possibly able to make decisions" in the next few weeks.

"But in terms of being able to be fully active and moving around with the punishing lifestyle of a president, I expect he will need more convalescence before he gets to that particular state," Notaras said.

The type of injuries Ramos-Horta suffered could take from six to eight weeks to heal in a basic sense, and up to six months overall, Notaras said.

"He has missed the last ten days of his life. Once he has the ability to reorient himself he will be able to be a lot clearer in his thoughts," he said. "But we need to keep him in a relaxed and stress-free environment so he can let his body heal."

East Timor has been under a state of emergency, with an evening-to-dawn curfew in place and gatherings banned, since the attacks blamed on rebels led by Alfredo Reinado who was killed in the gunfire.

Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao was ambushed on the same day but survived uninjured.

Australian-led international peacekeepers along with UN and national police have been searching for at least 17 renegade soldiers accused of trying to kill the president and prime minister.

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