Thursday, February 22, 2007

Ramos-Horta says he'll seek East Timor presidency

Ramos-Horta says he'll seek East Timor presidency

SINGAPORE, February 22 (Reuters) - Jose Ramos-Horta, the Nobel Peace
Prize winner who took over as East Timor's prime minister last year,
said on Thursday he would run for the presidency in an election due
in April, Al Jazeera English reported.

"After a lot of hesitation, I have decided to run for the
presidency," Ramos-Horta told the Qatar-based broadcaster in an interview.

"I will announce it shortly. Many people have come to me, barefoot,
illiterate from around the country, some without even my agreement
began collecting signatures for me," the premier added.

President Xanana Gusmao said this month the tiny Asia-Pacific nation
would vote for a new leader on April 9 as it seeks to heal divisions
and entrench political stability after last year's chaos and violence.

Gusmao, a widely respected former rebel fighter elected president at
the nation's independence in April 2002, has repeatedly said he would
not run again.

Australia led a force of 3,200 foreign peacekeepers to East Timor in
late May 2006 after it descended into chaos following the sacking of
600 mutinous soldiers.

Sporadic gang-related violence has continued in the Asia-Pacific
region's youngest country, which has been plagued by poverty and high
youth unemployment since independence.

"I have consulted with my president, Xanana Gusmao, consulted with
the bishops and I have decided to accept the burden," said
Ramos-Horta, according to a transcript of his interview provided by
Al Jazeera English.

"But if the people in their centuries-old wisdom decide to vote for
someone else, there are plenty of candidates right now ... if the
people in their centuries-old wisdom decide to vote for any of them
other than me I will probably be the only candidate in the world for
any job who will celebrate my electoral demise," he added.

Then East Timor's foreign minister, Ramos-Horta took over as prime
minister after Mari Alkatiri, broadly blamed for the civil violence,
stepped down on June 26, 2006.

The territory of around 1 million people voted in a 1999 referendum
for independence from Indonesia, which annexed it after Portugal
ended its colonial rule in 1975.

It became fully independent in 2002 after a period of U.N. administration.

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