|Subject: LUSA: Fretilin Leader Offers
Gusmao 'Unconditional' Presidential Backing
14 Feb 02 12:34
East Timor: Fretilin Leader Offers Gusmao 'Unconditional' Presidential Backing
The president of East Timor´s dominant party, Francisco Guterres, told Lusa Thursday that Fretilin would give Xanana Gusmao "unconditional" support in April 14 presidential elections, regardless of what form his candidacy might take.
Guterres, who is on a visit to Lisbon in his capacity as speaker of Dili´s Constitutent Assembly, said, however, that as a "national figure" he doubted Gusmao would stand for the presidency with the backing of opposition parties.
"I accompanied (Gusmao) for 24 years in the mountains" during the guerrilla resistance to Indonesian occupation, Guterres, also known as Lu-Olo, said. "I was always his subordinate and I have the firm conviction that he will accept" to become "the first president of the republic".
Guterres´ remarks came one day after Gusmao, who abandoned Fretilin´s leadership in 1997, reacted angrily in Dili to what he said were Fretilin "pressures" for him to run as an independent.
In comments to Lusa, the revered resistance leader said he had not yet decided whether or not to stand for the presidency.
But he rejected outright the possibility of running as an independent or as a Fretilin candidate, adding that he was "studying" the possibility of presenting himself with the backing of opposition parties.
Guterres said Fretilin, which overwhelmingly won last August´s constituent assembly elections, had publicly "committed itself" to backing Gusmao for the presidency and would "fulfill" that pledge.
East Timor: Gusmao Rejects Fretilin 'Pressure' To Run as Independent
Independence leader Xanana Gusmao said Wednesday he had not yet decided whether he would run for the presidency of East Timor in April 14 elections, adding that he would not bow to "pressures from anyone" to stand as an independent candidate.
"I´m not even interested in being president", Gusmao told Lusa in an interview in Dili. "My only preoccupation is to see a democratic system established here and for people to believe in it".
With 10 days left to the deadline for formalizing presidential candidacies, Gusmao reiterated that he would not run as an independent nor as a candidate of the dominant Fretilin party, which he once led.
Asked if would consider running with the backing of one or more opposition parties, the charismatic leader of East Timor´s resistance to Indonesian rule said he was "studying a decision".
"I´m free of preconceptions, of everything. I will make my choice but without feeling that I´m being pressured", he stressed.
Gusmao´s comments followed the disclosure that Fretilin´s two senior leaders had written to him, insisting that he run for the presidency either as an independent or with the backing of a supra- partisan national commission.
The letter, dated Feb. 10 and signed by Chief Minister Mari Alkatiri and Constituent Assembly Speaker Francisco Guterres, cautioned Gusmao that if his candidacy took any other form it risked creating political "frustrations" and potential divisions.
The letter, a copy of which Lusa obtained in Dili Wednesday, was also sent to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the territory´s UN administrator, Sergio Vieira de Mello, and East Timor´s two influential Catholic bishops.
"I´ve already told Fretilin that I won´t accept. I don´t want Fretilin to owe me anything nor do I want to owe Fretilin anything...I am free to decide", Gusmao told Lusa.
Gusmao, who abandoned Fretilin´s leadership in 1987 to assume a supra-partisan resistance role, underlined past differences with the party, including its decision not to form a "government of national unity" after its overwhelming victory in last August´s constitutent assembly elections.
Fretilin won 55 of the assembly´s 88 seats.
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