|Subject: AP: Ramos Horta promises E Timor
Ramos Horta promises E Timor prosperity
March 13, 2007 - 5:29PM
East Timor's Prime Minister Jose Ramos Horta has vowed to bring more prosperity to the crisis-wracked nation.
Ramos Horta won a Nobel Peace Prize for helping East Timor obtain independence and is now running for president.
He warned that progress would not be easy.
Ramos Horta was installed as prime minister last year when the tiny country's first post-independence government collapsed following an army mutiny and street violence that killed 37 people and saw the return of peacekeeping troops.
He told The Associated Press that grave problems remained, but "not to the extent that some pessimists paint - that this is a failing state or the country is in civil war."
"I think we avoided a civil war," he said.
Ramos Horta said the next five years were likely to be tougher than the first five years of independence "because of the crisis that we have had for almost the last 12 months."
"The people will be less forgiving because they've been waiting for more than five years now for the fruits of independence and ... there is a lot of disagreement with the leadership," he said.
East Timor broke free from 24 years of brutal Indonesian rule in 1999 following a UN-sponsored independence ballot.
Vengeful Indonesian troops and militiamen killed hundreds of people and torched much of the nation's infrastructure before foreign troops arrived to restore order.
Ramos Horta was the public face of the East Timorese resistance movement at the United Nations during the Indonesian occupation. He was foreign minister before becoming prime minister in July.
The prime minister said the next government would bring increased wealth to the country's 900,000 people, who remain among the poorest in Asia.
"Although we have much more money, we have to deliver much faster," he said, referring to an expected infusion of cash from offshore oil and gas reserves.
Some fear that next month's presidential election could spark fresh violence in the country, which is tense amid an ongoing Australian military operation to capture a rebel soldier, Major Alfredo Reinado, linked to last year's unrest and outbreaks of gang violence.
Ramos Horta is regarded as a front runner in the field of eight presidential candidates.
President Xanana Gusmao, a close ally of Ramos Horta and the leader of the country's armed resistance to Indonesian rule, is not running for re-election.
But there is speculation he might form a political party to contest parliamentary elections later this year that could see him becoming prime minister, a more powerful post than the largely ceremonial role of president.
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