Subject: LUSA: Election Volunteers Arriving, Gusmao Leaves Presidential Race Open

31 Jan 02 12:02 East Timor: Election Volunteers Arriving, Gusmao Leaves Presidential Race Open

More than half of the 150 international UN volunteers who will aid in East Timor´s April 14 presidential election have arrived in Dili, with the remainder expected next week, officials said Thursday.

The volunteers come from 37 countries, including Portugal, and will work with local electoral organizations in the territories 13 districts.

Xanana Gusmao, the only announced candidate so far, triggered controversy this week, indicating in an interview that his independent candidacy was not 100 percent certain.

The veteran independence leader was quoted by Dili´s "Suara Timor Lorosae" newspaper as saying he was "still waiting to see" how the constitution being drafted by the constituent assembly "treats the question" of the presidency before taking a final decision.

Gusmao also criticized Chief Minister Mari Alkatiri and his dominant Fretilin party for what he termed "inconsistency".

He reportedly said Alkatiri and Fretilin initially announced they would only back him as an independent, but were now seeking to create a multiparty commission to tap Gusmao as a candidate.

SAS/ASP -Lusa-

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