Subject: AFP: ETimor president delays announcing govt formation

ETimor president delays announcing govt formation

Wed Aug 1, 11:10 AM ET

DILI (AFP) - East Timor's president Jose Ramos-Horta delayed announcing Wednesday the composition of a new government, saying he wanted to give winning parties more time to come to an agreement alone.

East Timorese voters cast ballots in parliamentary elections on June 30, but no party won the absolute majority required to govern alone. Parties have been bickering over how to divide power, but the president has the constitutional authority to rule unilaterally.

"I was going to announce today, at 3 o'clock (0600 GMT), my decision on inviting whoever I have decided to invite to form a government, based on the constitution," he told reporters.

But he said he had met with the parties and each had asked to "please give them more time, because they want to talk to each other, they want to talk within their respective circles, in order to find an alternative solution that can ensure peace and stability in this country, based on the constitution."

Ramos-Horta said it was his responsibility to agree to their request.

He said he might be able to announce a decision on Friday.

Security was tight in the capital Dili ahead of the expected announcement.

Increased security was obvious around the presidential palace and parliamentary buildings and was to prevent any unrest from people possibly upset with the outcome, UN police spokeswoman Monica Rodrigues said.

"We are on standby at several buildings in the city and we prefer to prevent than to react," she told AFP.

The former ruling Fretilin party won 21 seats in the 65-seat parliament, while a new party set up by former president and national hero Xanana Gusmao netted 18.

Gusmao's party, the National Congress for the Reconstruction of East Timor, has however formed a coalition with smaller parties giving it a 37-seat bloc.

The young democracy's constitution is unclear on who has the right to form a government and name a prime minister under such a scenario, and gives the president the authority to decide.

Ramos-Horta, a Nobel peace laureate, has been pushing for a unity government but both parties have rejected this idea. He has said he fears the coalition would be unstable, but says Fretilin lacks sufficient seats to rule alone.

The polls followed more than a year of sporadic violence and political tension in East Timor following unrest on Dili's streets that left at least 37 people dead in April and May last year.

Lawmakers were officially sworn in to take their new positions in parliament on Monday. They have a tough task ahead leading one of the world's poorest nations, which only won independence in 2002.

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