Subject: AGE: Gusmao sheds reluctance over first presidency

Gusmao sheds reluctance over first presidency


After insisting for months that he would refuse the job, former guerrilla Jose "Xanana" Gusmao is set to become the first president of independent East Timor.

Mr Gusmao has now said he plans to accept nomination for the presidency at elections scheduled for late next year.

Almost all of the emerging political parties and their leaders have pledged their support for Mr Gusmao leading the territory to independence.

A small breakaway faction of Fretilin, the revolutionary party Mr Gusmao once led, opposes his election.

Nobel peace prize winner Jose Ramos Horta told The Age that two weeks ago he confronted Mr Gusmao about his unwillingness to accept the position.

"I told him `Stop this bullshit ... you know you enjoy it. Don't tell me you don't,"' Mr Ramos Horta said.

He said that when he asked Mr Gusmao whether he could turn his back on his people, he replied "no".

"Xanana has agreed to accept the job," Mr Ramos Horta said.

Mr Gusmao spent about eight years in Indonesian jails after his capture in Dili in 1992. He was released last year after a majority of East Timorese voted to end Indonesia's 24-year rule of the former Portuguese territory.

East Timorese leaders have agreed that Mr Gusmao should lead a government of national unity, made up of representatives of all significant parties, for at least five years after the withdrawal of UN administrators.

The UN has been running the territory since the Indonesian withdrawal last September.

Mr Gusmao recently married a Melbourne woman, Kirsty Sword, who for years worked behind the scenes supporting the East Timorese resistance in Jakarta.

Despite the Indonesian military's sponsorship of violence in the territory last year, Mr Gusmao has formed a warm relationship with Indonesia's President Abdurrahman Wahid.

Mr Ramos Horta is set to become East Timor's first foreign minister, although he insists he would prefer not to have the job.

"You cannot retain your integrity once you are in the government," he said.

"But if I honestly believe that there is no one else who can do the job, I would do it in a transition period."

East Timor's major political parties support Mr Ramos Horta becoming foreign minister.

He returned to a hero's welcome in the territory late last year after 24 years pushing East Timor's independence as the resistance movement's international representative.

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