Subject: Wounded East Timor president 'forgives' rebel leader

Agence France Presse -- English

March 3, 2008 Monday 1:13 AM GMT

Wounded East Timor president 'forgives' rebel leader

DARWIN, Australia, March 3 2008

East Timor's President Jose Ramos-Horta has forgiven the rebel leader who led an attack on his home in which he was shot, the country's interim president said Monday.

Ramos-Horta had called for calm and asked for a thorough investigation into the February 11 attacks on himself and Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao, who escaped unharmed, said Fernando "Lasama" de Araujo.

"The president also said that he forgives the deceased, Alfredo Reinado Alves, and asked the government to support Alfredo's family," de Araujo said in a statement after visiting the Nobel peace laureate in a Darwin hospital.

Rebel leader Reinado was killed in an exchange of fire during the attack in which Ramos-Horta was seriously wounded outside his Dili home.

Ramos-Horta was flown to the Royal Darwin Hospital shortly after he was shot and remained in induced coma for 10 days before regaining consciousness nearly two weeks ago.

"The president is very lucid, showing his concern for the country and the responsibility of the head of state," said de Araujo.

"The president also expressed gratitude to the nation and to the church for their prayers and asked people to stop the violence."

A key renegade soldier sought in connection with the attacks surrendered at the weekend.

Amaro da Silva Susar, who turned himself in Saturday night, told a news conference he participated in the assault on Ramos-Horta.

"Yes I was involved. I stood at the gate," he said, adding however that he was not the person who shot the president.

"I surrendered because I want my country to progress in the future, so its people can live in calm," he said.

Authorities have issued at least 17 arrest warrants for renegade soldiers accused of taking part in the attacks.

Topping their most wanted list is Gustao Salsinha, Reinado's right hand man.

Australian-led international peacekeepers along with UN forces have been assisting the search.

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