Subject: AFP: East Timor political leaders vow to work for peace

Agence France Presse -- English

December 10, 2006 Sunday 4:27 AM GMT

East Timor political leaders vow to work for peace

DILI, Dec 10 2006

The political leaders of unrest-plagued East Timor on Sunday pledged to work together to return peace and order to the fledgling nation.

In a traditional ceremony in front of the seaside government palace, President Xanana Gusmao, Prime Minister Jose Ramos Horta, House Speaker Fransisco "Lu Olo" Guterres and members of the cabinet were joined by tribal leaders from the country's 13 districts.

"We representatives of the sovereign organs of the state, political leaders and elders, we solemnly pledge to work together and open our hearts to peace and order," the leaders said, repeating a pledge read out in the local Tetum language by a tribal chief dressed in colorful native clothes.

Also present were former prime minister Mari Alkatiri and former president Fransiscus Xavier Amaral.

The leaders added they would work for peace, love and wisdom for the next generations and "to not speak badly of each other so that we may support and care for our people in peace and stability."

They added that the spirits of the country's dead heroes were witnesses, and that they would be cursed if they went back on their word.

As part of ceremony, attended by some 500 people, tribal leaders smeared a large flag mast in front of the office with a mixture of coconut water and blood drawn from a cut made on one ear of a pig.

Ramos-Horta has said that the ceremony, tightly guarded by UNpol members, was to mark the 10th anniversary of the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to then Dili Bishop Carlos Belo and to himself, then foreign minister of the resistance movement.

The tiny nation, which achieved independence in 2002, was rocked in April and May by clashes between security force factions which quickly degenerated into street violence involving youth gangs.

At least 37 people died in the bloodshed, which prompted the deployment of 3,200 Australian-led peacekeepers to restore calm.


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