Subject: Australian PM to visit East Timor, Bali

Also AP: 
Australian PM to meet East Timor leaders, calls Gusmao likely next PM despite impasse

ABC Radio Australia

Last Updated 25/07/2007, 19:29:22

Australian PM to visit East Timor, Bali

Australia's Prime Minister John Howard will make a flying visit to East Timor and Bali on Thursday.

He will meet President Jose Ramos-Horta, and former president, Xanana Gusmao, the leader of the new political party, the National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction (CNRT), who has been involved in talks aimed at trying to form a new government.

Mr Howard will then fly to Bali to meet Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and open an eye hospital - a gift from Australia as a memorial to the Balinese people who died, along with 88 Australians in the 2002 terrorist attack.

Mr Howard last visited East Timor a year ago.

He said the purpose of going to East Timor is to meet the newly elected president.

"I've met him before but meet him in his new position," Mr Howard said.

"He's well known to me and I think it's important that i take the opportunity of a quick visit to East Timor, both to see him and also Xanana Gusmao and also of course to take the opportunity of speaking to and thanking the Australian forces."


Australian PM to meet East Timor leaders, calls Gusmao likely next PM despite impasse

The Associated Press

Published: July 25, 2007

CANBERRA, Australia: Australia's prime minister said he would travel to East Timor on Thursday to meet the new President Jose Ramos-Horta and Xanana Gusmao, whom he called the likely next prime minister despite a stalemate over the formation a new government.

"Tomorrow, I am going to East Timor to see the newly elected president and likely prime minister of that country," John Howard told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio Wednesday in the west coast city of Perth.

Despite Howard's prediction that Gusmao would become the next prime minister, a recent election in East Timor left no single party with enough seats to form a majority, and coalition talks have failed.

Howard was accused of political interference by East Timor's first prime minister, Mari Alkatiri, who alleges he was ousted last year in a coup led by Ramos-Horta and Gusmao that was covertly backed by Australia.

Gusmao, East Timor's first president since it broke from Indonesia in 1999, heads a coalition of parties that holds a majority of parliamentary seats after elections last month.

However, the ruling Fretilin party won the most seats, and insists it has the right to rule. It has proposed forming a minority government on its own and says that otherwise it wants new elections.

Australia was the first country to send troops and police to restore order after factional fighting between army and police forces spilled over into arson, gang warfare and looting in the streets of the capital, Dili.

Howard blamed the violence on a failure of leadership, but Alkatiri insists it was orchestrated to topple his government.

Australia maintains the largest foreign force in East Timor, a former Portuguese colony of a million people which voted for independence from Indonesia in a U.N.-sanctioned ballot.

During his travels this week, Howard also plans to meet Indonesian President Susilo Bambag Yudhoyono in Indonesia and open a hospital dedicated to victims of terrorism.

The eye hospital was built at the Australian government's expense in memory of the Balinese victims among the 202 killed by terrorists bombs on Bali on Oct. 12, 2002.

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