Subject: Ramos-Horta Sworn in as E. Timor's New PM

Agence France-Presse Monday, July 10, 2006

Ramos-Horta Sworn in as East Timor's New PM

Nobel laureate Jose Ramos-Horta has been sworn as East Timor's new prime minister, in a move which boosted hopes for a lasting peace and an end to weeks of political uncertainty in the young nation.

Ramos-Horta, 56, placed his hand on a copy of the country's constitution as he took a brief oath in Portuguese to serve East Timor's people, witnessed by President Xanana Gusmao, who appointed him to the position on Saturday.

In a speech delivered immediately after his induction, Ramos-Horta said the main priority for his government would be restoring security and moving some 150,000 people now in refugee camps back to their homes.

"Our people have suffered and many who were poor before the crisis have lost the little that they had, but they also lost faith in state institutions and in political leaders," he said according to a copy of the speech e-mailed to AFP.

"The government action in the weeks and months ahead is to restore faith and hope, respect for our young democracy and for our young nation state."

The new prime minister's deputies, Agriculture Minister Estanislau da Silva and Health Minister Rui Araujo, attended the swearing-in ceremony along with senior Catholic bishops and foreign diplomats.

The president's office, where the event was held, was guarded by around 50 of the more than 2,200 Australian-led foreign peacekeepers sent here to restore calm after the capital Dili descended into violence in May.

At least 21 people were killed while thousands fled their homes for makeshift camps amid battles between rival factions of the military and police as well as ethnic gangs, who roamed the streets armed with swords and axes.

Ramos-Horta takes the place of Mari Alkatiri, who resigned as premier last month to take responsibility for the mayhem.

Alkatiri had also overseen the dismissal of about 600 members of the 1,400-strong army in March after they protested against discrimination, which triggered the crisis.

While he lacked the broad-based popular support lent to Gusmao -- who led the guerrilla resistance against Indonesia -- Alkatiri was seen as a tough negotiator who inked a gas deal with Australia that saw East Timor do well.

He also faces questioning over allegations he armed a civilian hit squad tasked with eliminating his opponents, charges he has vigorously denied.

May's violence was the worst to hit the nation since it voted for independence from Jakarta in 1999 in a United Nations-backed referendum.

Ramos-Horta won a Nobel peace prize for his non-violent campaign against Indonesia's 24-year rule of East Timor and has been foreign minister since the territory gained independence from Jakarta in 2002.

He will lead as prime minister until elections due in May next year.

Ramos-Horta's name was on a shortlist offered to the president by Alkatiri's ruling Fretilin party.

Although he is a political independent and not a party member, Ramos-Horta helped found the decades-old Fretilin, the political wing of East Timor's resistance against former colonial master Portugal and then Indonesia.

The veteran statesman and a close ally of Gusmao, who pressured Alkatiri to resign, had been widely tipped as a frontrunner for the job, a delicate position given the implosion of the security forces.

Over the weekend he ruled out an immediate reshuffle of the government, which has been in place since 2002.

-------------------------- Joyo Indonesia News Service

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