Subject: BBC/AP: Gusmao runs for president

Also - AP: Candidate in East Timor Elections

Saturday, 23 February, 2002, 07:46 GMT

Gusmao runs for E Timor presidency

East Timor independence leader Xanana Gusmao has declared he will stand in the territory's first presidential election on 14 April.

Mr Gusmao, a former guerrilla, has earned the support of most of the territory's political parties.

"I continue to believe that I am not the ideal person for this job, but I will do the best job that I can," he said at a news conference in the capital, Dili.

His only opponent in the election will be Fransisco Xavier do Amaral, who served as president for nine days between the withdrawal of former colonial power Portugal in 1975 and the invasion by Indonesian forces.

Correspondents say the presidential role is likely to be ceremonial, as the country's constitution calls for a parliamentary style of government.

Guerrilla hero

The BBC's Richard Galpin in Jakarta says Mr Gusmao has always been a reluctant politician, with even the decision to file for presidency being left to just before the deadline.

Popular and charismatic, he is considered a hero in East Timor after he commanded the guerrilla army Falantil against Indonesia during their occupation of East Timor.

In 1992 he was captured in Dili and jailed for life by the Indonesian authorities, before being freed in 1999 eight days after East Timor voted for independence.

After the vote a campaign of killings and destruction by pro-Jakarta militias gripped the territory until the arrival of an Australian-led international peacekeeping force.

Since then it has come under United Nations administration, and Mr Gusmao has worked hard with both sides to ensure a peaceful transition of power.

East Timor will assume full independence on 20 May following the April elections.

Candidate in East Timor Elections Sat Feb 23, 7:11 AM ET

By JOANNA JOLLY, Associated Press Writer

DILI, East Timor (AP) - Independence leader Jose Alexandre "Xanana" Gusmao, a potent symbol of East Timor's resistance during decades of Indonesian rule, on Saturday officially declared himself a candidate in the new nation's first presidential election.

The long-expected announcement came just hours before the deadline for entering the presidential race. Gusmao had previously indicated his intention to run for president.

"I continue to believe that I am not the ideal person for this job, but I will do the best job that I can," Gusmao said at news conference in the capital, Dili.

Gusmao's only opponent will be Fransisco Xavier do Amaral, who was appointed East Timor's first president in 1975, after the pullout of the Portuguese colonial government. He served for only nine days before Indonesian forces invaded on Dec. 7, 1975.

The charismatic Gusmao enjoys broad popular support and is expected to win the election.

Although Gusmao said he would stand as an independent candidate, 10 small opposition parties have already declared their support for him.

"We need to construct a democratic East Timor and to serve the people," he told reporters.

East Timor, which has been under U.N. administration since 1999 when its voters opted for independence from Indonesia, is due to hold the elections on April 14.

The new head of state will be formally installed on May 20, when the world body is scheduled to end its interim rule, making East Timor the world's newest nation.

Xanana, a former soccer player and journalist, joined the armed resistance against Indonesian rule and quickly rose to command the guerrilla forces in the 1980s. He was captured by Indonesian troops in 1992 and remained a political prisoner in Jakarta for seven years.

Gusmao has recently distanced himself from East Timor's largest political party, Fretilin, which led the independence movement. The party won two-thirds of the votes in parliamentary elections last August but Gusmao declined to stand as their presidential candidate.

Earlier this month, the 88-member assembly approved the draft of the new constitution, which envisions a parliamentary system with a strong executive led by a prime minister.

The current prime minister is Fretilin leader Mari Alkatiri.

The national charter defines the president's role as a largely symbolic one.

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