Subject: Australia welcomes Ramos-Horta as ETimor's prime minister

Associated Press Worldstream

July 8, 2006 Saturday 11:31 AM GMT

Australia welcomes Jose Ramos-Horta as East Timor's prime minister

CANBERRA Australia

Australia welcomed the appointment of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Jose Ramos-Horta as East Timor's new prime minister on Saturday.

"Jose Ramos-Horta is a good personal friend and we wish him well," Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said in a statement.

Australia has led an international peacekeeping force attempting to restore order in the neighboring country since May and has blamed a leadership failure in East Timor for the crisis.

"The question of who is prime minister is a matter for East Timor, but we welcome the fact that the political leadership in East Timor are starting to sort their problems out," Downer said.

The main opposition Labor Party, describing Ramos-Horta as "an old friend of Australia," also welcomed his appointment.

"This is a positive step forward for East Timor because Mr. Horta has the capacity to assist President (Xanana) Gusmao in uniting the country," opposition foreign affairs spokesman Kevin Rudd said in a statement.

Gusmao announced the formation of a new government Saturday, filling a void created when former Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri resigned last month amid allegations he formed a hit squad to kill his political opponents.

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