|Subject: AFP: Timor's independence leader
Gusmao will be president: Ramos Horta
Thursday April 5, 1:11 PM
Timor's independence leader Gusmao will be president: Ramos Horta
SYDNEY, April 5 (AFP) -
East Timorese independence leader Xanana Gusmao will inevitably become his country's first president, even though he says he does not want the job, Nobel laureate Jose Ramos Horta said.
Ramos Horta, who for almost three decades campaigned in exile for East Timor's independence from Indonesia, said Gusmao will become his country's first president despite stepping down as leader of its UN-appointed National Council.
In an interview screened late Wednesday here by the specialist ethnic broadcaster SBS, Ramos Horta, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his diplomatic campaign against Jakarta's occupation of his homeland, said Gusmao would re-enter the fray to guide the infant state.
Gusmao stepped down from the National Council last week, citing his frustration with the bickering among East Timor's political factions as the reason.
The man, who led armed guerrillas against the Indonesian army and who was later captured and imprisoned in Jakarta, returned to East Timor as a hero in 1999.
In August that year, more than 75 percent of East Timor's voters indicated they wanted independence from Jakarta in a UN-supervised ballot.
The United Nations later sanctioned the deployment of an Australian-led peacekeeping force to the former Portuguese colony after pro-Jakarta militias launched a brutal scorched-earth rampage across East Timor.
Ramos Horta told the SBS Dateline program that Gusmao has "the legitimacy, the moral and political authority" to lead what will become the world's newest independent state, probably sometime next year when the UN withdraws.
"So I'm not too worried -- he will be our first president," Horta said.
"He owes it to his people. He cannot just now walk away. And I know how to persuade him."
The UN will supervise East Timor's first democratic elections on the August 30 anniversary of the independence referendum, when the population of 800,000 will elect an embryonic parliament that must draft a constitution before issuing an independence proclamation.
When he resigned from the National Council last week, Gusmao told the UN authorities running the territory that he refused to be part of a "politically irresponsible process".
He was referring to the way in which East Timor's political parties were approaching the drafting of a preliminary constitution.
"There have been numerous attempts to find ways to clarify and debate one of the most important moments in this process with the population: the constitution and how to draft it," Gusmao said in a letter to the United Nations Transitional Authority in East Timor.
"I feel, as president of the National Council, that any attempt to overcome the deadlock is in vain due to the lack of willingness by members of this body to advance the process."
"As I refuse to be part of a politically irresponsible process, I hereby tender my resignation."
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