Subject: AFP: Ramos-Horta named as ETimor's new prime minister

Also AFP: Chronology; Bio of JRH

Agence France Presse -- English

Ramos-Horta named as ETimor's new prime minister

DILI, July 8 2006

Nobel prize-winner Jose Ramos-Horta has been named as East Timor's new prime minister, President Xanana Gusmao announced Saturday, ending weeks of political uncertainty in the nation.

The premier's position was left empty last month when Mari Alkatiri resigned, bowing to pressure to take responsibility for violence which saw at least 21 people die and 150,000 flee their homes for makeshift refugee camps.

"We have agreed to declare as prime minister Jose Ramos-Horta, first deputy prime minister Estanislau da Silva and second deputy prime minister Rui Araujo," Gusmao said after meeting with leaders from the ruling party.

Da Silva is currently agriculture minister while Araujo is health minister.

"I believe they are going to meet either today (Saturday), tomorrow or the day after and we will announce when the swearing-in of this new government will take place," Gusmao said.

"The programs of this new government will focus on solving this crisis so that the people can return home and the situation can normalise."

Ramos-Horta's spokesman Chris Santos told AFP that the new premier would not make any statement until Monday.

Naming a premier acceptable both to the ruling Fretilin party and Gusmao, who has been highly critical of its leaders, is crucial for Asia's poorest nation to begin forging a peaceful future after the unrest in May.

Alkatiri's Fretilin party, which commands an easy majority of 55 seats out of 88 in parliament, handed Gusmao a shortlist of candidates for the position on Friday.

Ramos-Horta, who was East Timor's international face during its years of fighting Indonesia's occupation and won the 1996 Nobel peace prize for his efforts, was foreign and defence minister in Alkatiri's government.

He is not a member of the decades-old Fretilin party but helped found it.

The 56-year-old, who will run the country until elections due in early 2007, has been widely seen as a potentially unifying leader for the young nation, which finally became independent in 2002.

He told local radio before the announcement that in order for the new government to function properly, he believed East Timor's next prime minister needed to be "brave and possess an open conscience."

"The person must be able to hold dialogue with everyone, including the (Catholic) Church," he said. "There has to be dialogue with the private sector in order to boost the economy and provide jobs for unemployed youths."

A veteran diplomat, Ramos-Horta has acted as a roving peace-maker in recent weeks, actively meeting with disgruntled rebel groups and military factions to seek reconciliation between them.

The May unrest was triggered by Alkatiri sacking some 600 soldiers, or nearly half of the nation's armed forces, after they deserted complaining of discrimination because they came from the west.

More than 2,200 Australian-led foreign peacekeepers were deployed to East Timor to restore calm amid the unrest and they continue to patrol the capital, though occasional outbreaks of violence have occurred since their arrival.

Late Saturday the streets remained peaceful, with Australian troops roaming the city in armoured personnel vehicles.

Many ordinary East Timorese welcomed Ramos-Horta's appointment.

"This is good because Mr. Horta is well known everywhere and he does not take the side of any group, he embraces everybody," 27-year-old school teacher Joao Cabral told AFP.

Alalu da Silva, a 30-year-old chef, echoed a common view in saying he believed he would bring stability.

"He deserves to be in the post because he can bring peace," he said.


Agence France Presse -- English

East Timor: a new PM after weeks of turmoil

DILI, July 8 2006

Jose Ramos-Horta was appointed prime minister of East Timor on Saturday, in a move which has raised hopes for an end to months of violence and uncertainty in the young nation.

Key dates in the history of East Timor:

1974: Faraway Portugal starts to withdraw from its remaining colonies, of which East Timor is one.

1975: With the local Fretilin independence movement on the rise, the territory's neighbour Indonesia annexes East Timor and sends in troops. The United Nations condemns the Indonesian move, and calls for a referendum on independence.

1998: Indonesia agrees to the call for a referendum, which the UN organises.

1999: More than 78 percent of East Timor's voters come out in favour of complete independence. But the vote takes place amid widespread violence unleashed by anti-independence militias backed by the Indonesian army.

The United Nations sets up an interim administration and deploys peacekeepers, with the biggest contingent coming from Australia.

2001: UN-organised elections are won by Fretilin.

2002: East Timor attains full independence, with former guerrilla leader Xanana Gusmao as its president.

February, 2006: Some 600 soldiers, nearly half of East Timor's armed forces, desert their barracks complaining of discrimination because they come from the nation's west.

March: East Timor's military commander dismisses the deserting soldiers.

April: Sacked soldiers and their supporters hold protests in Dili. at least two civilians are killed and about 100 homes burned or damaged.

May 5: At least 21,000 Dili residents flee the city for villages in eastern Timor amid rumours of a clash between the military and police.

May 12: Then-foreign minister Jose Ramos-Horta says his country does not need foreign peacekeepers, shortly after Australia said it had sent two warships close to Timorese waters.

Ramos-Horta visits Major Alves Alfredo Reinado, leader of 20 military police rebels whose departure from Dili sparked rumours of clashes.

May 22: Reinado urges Dili residents to leave the capital "if you want to protect yourself", sparking panic.

May 23: One Timorese soldier is killed and five injured in two separate shootouts between rebels and the military in Dili and Baucau.

May 24: East Timor asks for hundreds of foreign troops and police from Australia, New Zealand, Portugal and Malaysia, as rebels led by Reinado fight the military on the outskirts of Dili.

May 25: Reinado says foreign troops are necessary to prevent civil war, as an advance wave of 150 Australian commandos arrive. Police and military fight pitched battles across Dili and elsewhere. A soldier kills nine police and wounds at least 27 others in a failed UN-negotiated surrender.

May 26: Australian troops take control of security, as Timorese troops are sent back to their barracks.

May 27: Ethnic gangs armed with swords and axes rampage in Dili. Alkatiri says the unrest is part of an attempted coup to overthrow him.

May 28: More international troops land, as armed mobs tear through the city, burning houses and battling with ethnic rivals.

May 30: Gusmao assumes emergency powers, taking sole control over the army. Defence Minister Roque Rodriguez and Interior Minister Rogerio Lobato are sacked.

June 8: More than 1,000 protesters converge on Dili, giving parliament 48 hours to dissolve Alkatiri's government.

June 9: Ramos-Horta calls for an investigation into allegations aired on Australian television that Alkatari organised death squads to eliminate his political opponents. Lobato is alleged to have supplied the arms.

June 11: The government asks the UN to form an "independent special inquiry commission" into the April and May violence.

June 20: Hundreds of protestors demand the resignation of Alkatiri and the prosecutor-general issues an arrest warrant for Lobato.

June 21: Gusmao calls on Alkatiri to resign after watching the Australian program, warning him he will be sacked if he does not resign voluntarily.

June 22: Gusmao threatens to resign unless Alkatiri steps down.

June 23: Thousands of protestors stream into Dili calling on Alkatiri, not Gusmao, to step down.

June 25: Ramos-Horta resigns when the ruling Fretilin party decides to keep Alkatiri on as prime minister.

June 26: Alkatiri quits.

June 28: Thousands of Alkatiri supporters march on Dili as some gangs attack refugee camps and burn houses.

July 7: Fretilin leaders meet with Gusmao to hand him their list of preferred nominees to replace Alkatiri.

July 8: Ramos-Horta is named as new prime minister, with agriculture minister Estanislau da Silva named as first deputy prime minister and health minister Rui Araujo taking the second deputy prime minister post.


Agence France Presse -- English

July 8, 2006 Saturday 9:52 AM GMT Nobel laureate Jose Ramos-Horta, the voice of East Timor

DILI, July 8 2006

Jose Ramos-Horta, the Nobel peace laureate who spent decades campaigning for East Timor's independence from Indonesia, was appointed the nation's prime minister Saturday.

Ramos-Horta, 56, is a political independent hailed as a potentially unifying leader, who has served as foreign minister of the half-island nation since it won independence from its neighbour in 2002.

He is believed to have edged out his former wife and Minister for State Ana Pessoa, with whom he has a grown son, as well as two other ministers in the ruling Fretilin party to claim the top job.

The elegant polyglot, who typically sports a five o'clock shadow and wears snazzy bow ties, saw his status rise at home in the aftermath of tragic violence which rocked the capital Dili and its surrounds in May.

Fierce fighting between rival factions of the security forces as well as street gangs wielding machetes and swords led to the deaths of at least 21 people and saw some 150,000 petrified East Timorese flee their homes.

Ramos-Horta takes over from Mari Alkatiri, who stepped down on June 26 amid demands he take responsibility for the crisis, sparked by his decision in March to sack 600 soldiers, or nearly half the armed forces.

As Alkatiri's star has dimmed, Ramos-Horta's profile has risen.

The veteran statesman has acted as a roving peace-maker, meeting with disgruntled rebel groups and the military seeking reconciliation, and also taking on the critical role of defence minister.

"He's the only known figure people have confidence in," Australian-based political analyst Bob Lowry told AFP.

The ex-journalist's diplomatic career began when at the age of 25 he was named foreign minister in the government of Fretilin, then the political wing of Falintil, which fought against the Portuguese colonisers and later Indonesia.

With Indonesia appearing poised to invade his country, Ramos-Horta left in a bid to convince the UN Security Council to back their cause. He failed but his promotion of the East Timorese cause had begun.

He spent 10 years in New York, where he discovered a passion for the cinema and traditional jazz but also became familiar with the workings of the United Nations, where he led the permanent delegation of Fretilin.

Ramos-Horta ceaselessly denounced the "genocide" he accused the Indonesians of perpetrating, and lobbied for the international community to intervene, with or without the mandate of the UN.

In a New York Times interview last month, he recounted how, struggling to get East Timor onto the world's agenda, he once plastered stickers reading "Free Xanana, Boycott Bali" on the back of toilet doors at a rights conference.

He wanted the well-known resort island's name to pique delegates' interest in then-unknown Xanana Gusmao, who led East Timor's guerrilla movement and is now East Timor's respected president.

The Wall Street Journal responded with a front-page story.

Ramos-Horta's efforts were recognised with the Nobel peace prize in 1996, which he shared with Bishop Carlos Belo, the leader of East Timor's majority Catholic population, in a major boost for East Timor's global profile.

In 1999, the East Timorese finally voted to become independent, sparking bloody reprisals by Indonesian-backed militia groups who killed an estimated 1,400 people before an international force restored order.

Ramos-Horta then returned home after 24 years in exile. During his time away, at least 102,800 Timorese, or 10 percent of the population, were estimated to have died as a result of Indonesian policies.

Among them were three of Ramos-Horta's brothers and one sister.

With a Portuguese father and Timorese mother, he speaks Portuguese, English, French and Tetum, the language of East Timor.

Ramos-Horta's name had been floated as a potential candidate for succeeding UN secretary-general Kofi Annan but he told AFP in an interview this month that he was not pursuing the job.

"What notice would be taken of the secretary-general if I abandoned my own country in its time of need?" he asked.

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