Subject: East Timor President points finger at Reinado's Australian lover

East Timor President points finger at Reinado's Australian lover

Lindsay Murdoch, Darwin

March 28, 2008

EAST Timorese President Jose Ramos Horta has accused a Timor-born Australian woman of influencing rebel leader Alfredo Reinado in the lead-up to last month's assassination bid.

Angelita Pires, who was the rebel leader's "intimate associate and lover", was among several people who had "manipulated and influenced" Reinado before the attack on February 11, Mr Ramos Horta said.

Speaking for the first time about the attempt on his life, Mr Ramos Horta also told The Age yesterday how he came within a split second of being killed.

"I could see from the face and eyes of one of Reinado's men that he was going to shoot me," Mr Ramos Horta said. "I turned around. It was at that moment that he fired at least two shots, hitting me on the right side of the back," he said.

"If I had not turned at that moment he would have shot me right in the chest … I would have died immediately."

Mr Ramos Horta, who has been released from hospital but remains in Darwin recovering from his gunshot wounds, said he wanted answers to many questions arising from the attempt on his life, including why the Australian-led International Stabilisation Force (ISF) did not immediately hunt down the attackers.

He understood that there was no "hostile pursuit" of the rebels for two days.

Mr Ramos Horta said he also wanted to know why United Nations police did not immediately come to his assistance.

He described how he lay bleeding for about 30 minutes near the front gate of his house on a hill overlooking Dili harbour. "I felt no pain," he said.

But he remembered thinking that if he died, East Timor would explode into violence. "This was what partly helped me hang on."

Mr Ramos Horta also told why he returned to the house from a morning beach walk after hearing two sets of gunshots. He said he initially looked at two Timorese army soldiers who were with him and said "Yes, the shots are from the house."

But he said he then encountered the Dili manager of the ANZ bank, who was riding a bike. "He said in a casual and relaxed way that the ISF was doing an exercise near my house," Mr Ramos Horta said. "That being the case, I felt relaxed and decided to go home," he said. "I also wanted to check on the people at my house ­ they included children."

Mr Ramos Horta said that as he approached the house he saw a bullet-riddled army vehicle. "I didn't see a single person, I didn't see any ISF soldier," he said. "It looked very weird to me.

"I started to walk more cautiously, concerned. At one point when we were approaching the gate one of the soldiers who was escorting me said to be careful, there's somebody there … he meant some hostile person.

"When I looked I saw one of Alfredo's men in full uniform with a cloth on his head. He then aimed the gun at me."

Mr Ramos Horta said when he was shot he fell to the road and was unable to move for about 30 minutes until a battered old ambulance arrived. He said he made repeated calls for help on his mobile phone.

He said an inquiry must investigate why UN police failed to immediately encircle the area around his house to prevent the attackers escaping.

"Why didn't the ISF immediately launch actions to capture those elements?" he said. "How did Mr Alfredo Reinado happen to be totally undetected in Dili when the ISF was supposed to be keeping an eye on his movements?

"There are quite a number of missing elements that have to be clarified," Mr Ramos Horta said. "The people of my country are demanding answers and I intend to get answers to all of these questions." Mr Ramos Horta said a commission of inquiry should also examine who was behind both Reinado and Gastao Salsinha, the former military commander also suspected of involvement in the February 11 attacks on Mr Ramos Horta and Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao.

Reinado, who had been wanted for murder over a previous armed confrontation with police, was killed in a shoot-out with Mr Ramos Horta's bodyguards after the attack.

East Timorese soldiers and police are still hunting Salsinha and 13 of his men in the island nation's central mountains.

Mr Ramos Horta said the attacks came as a shock to the people of East Timor, of whom he is proud for remaining calm.

He said Reinado had told him when they last met in January that he was the only political leader he trusted. He (Reinado) put a lot of trust in me," he said.

But Mr Ramos Horta said Reinado was a very unstable person who was never consistent with what he said. "He does something else the next day while under the influence of his intimate associate and lover Ms Angie Pires and others who were behind him," he said.

"While I managed to create a certain climate of confidence among him and his men, there were some elements behind him who would manipulate and influence the situation," Mr Ramos Horta said.

Ms Pires, 38, who grew up in Darwin, was detained within days of the attacks and appeared before a judge.

She was released to house detention in Dili while the investigation into the attacks continues.

Ms Pires is politically well-connected in Dili, but has denied having any prior knowledge of the attacks, or being involved in any plot to destabilise East Timor.

Mr Ramos Horta said he hoped to return to Dili within two or three weeks.

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