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East Timor president returns home

Latest update : 2008-04-17

East Timor's president, Jose Ramos-Horta, arrived home on Thursday to a crowd of thousands after more than two months of treatment in Australia for injuries he sustained in a February assassination attempt.

East Timorese President Jose Ramos-Horta arrived home amid tight security and cheering crowds Thursday after two months of treatment abroad for gunshot wounds sustained in a rebel attack, an AFP correspondent said.
The visibly thinner president stepped off a plane from the Australian city of Darwin to be welcomed by more than 1,000 supporters and figures from across the tiny Asian nation's fractious political spectrum.
Crowds waving East Timorese flags and wearing white T-shirts emblazoned with the face of the Nobel Laureate watched a military parade marking Ramos-Horta's arrival.
The president appeared close to tears as he embraced Timorese military chief Taur Matan Ruak on the carpet leading from the plane.
Asked by reporters how he was feeling, Ramos-Horta said simply: "I'm fine."
Ramos-Horta was wounded during a February 11 attack on his home that left rebel leader Alfredo Reinado and one other rebel dead.
The convoy of Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao was also fired on in a near-simultaneous attack.
A number of rebels are still wanted over the attack, included Reinado's reputed right-hand man Gastao Salsinha.
"I ask Salsinha to surrender, to come to Dili, surrender his weapon and surrender himself to the prosecutor's office," Ramos-Horta said on Thursday.
"There is only one place for him to talk, that is in court... only a court can decide whether he is guilty or not."
The president said East Timor had suffered from too much instability and had to unite to face the dangers of a global economic crisis.
"I ask the government and the parliament to see how we can use our oil receipts to buy food for the poor. The state and the government should look into this. This is my preoccupation," he said.
Ramos-Horta praised the country's often-feuding political factions for maintaining calm during the state of emergency imposed in East Timor since the February attacks.
"I would like to express my thanks to Fernando 'Lasama' de Araujo who served as interim president. At a critical moment of responsibility when I was shot and nearly died, he performed with ability, courage and prudence," Ramos-Horta said.
Local and foreign forces ensured tight security for the president's return, with soldiers and police lining the road from the airport.
"President Horta's return is an opportunity for Timorese society to pull together with renewed determination," the United Nations special representative to the country, Atul Khare, said in a statement.
International forces have been stationed in East Timor since 2006 after a mass desertion by members of the armed forces prompted fighting between military and police factions and street violence that killed at least 37 people.
Ramos-Horta gave assurances during the week on national television that he would continue to lead his country after an Australian newspaper quoted him as saying he may step down.

Date created : 2008-04-17