Subject: AFP: East Timor rebel must surrender: Ramos-Horta

Agence France Presse

March 15, 2007 Thursday 1:47 PM GMT

East Timor rebel must surrender: Ramos-Horta

DILI, March 15 2007

East Timor's Prime Minister Jose Ramos-Horta Thursday urged a fugitive rebel leader to surrender to Australian troops, saying he cannot muster enough support to disrupt upcoming presidential polls.

"The position is very clear to him ... surrender the weapons and surrender himself to justice," Ramos-Horta said of Major Alfredo Reinado, who is on the run after eluding an attack on his base by Australian troops.

The rebel has been a persistent problem for the government of impoverished East Timor, which will soon hold its first presidential election since independence from Indonesia in 1999.

The prime minister said the government was not negotiating with Reinado and played down fears the fugitive could destabilise the April 9 poll, which Ramos-Horta is favourite to win.

"I do not believe that Reinado and his men want to disturb the election," the premier said.

"I do not believe that he has the ability to generate the large support to ... disturb the election in any area of the country."

Ramos-Horta vowed Reinado, who broke out of jail last year, would be respected and protected if he surrendered.

The rebel has ruled out surrendering to Australian troops, saying he is only prepared to negotiate with the government if the military operation against him is halted.

The renegade soldier has been criticised for his part in unrest in May that killed at least 37 people, displaced 150,000 and led to the deployment of Australian-led international peacekeepers.

East Timor's President Xanana Gusmao gave the international force the green light to capture Reinado after accusing him of stealing weapons last month.

Australian troops then stormed his mountain base in Same, 50 kilometres (30 miles) south of the capital, Dili, but Reinado escaped and has eluded a subsequent manhunt.

The offensive triggered unrest in the capital and elsewhere, prompting the president to warn in a televised address of a security crackdown.

Brigadier Mal Rerden, the Australian who heads the international force in East Timor, has said he is confident his troops will track down and apprehend the renegade.

Ramos-Horta was the exiled spokesman of the East Timorese resistance movement during the country's occupation by Indonesia from 1975 to 1999.

The 57-year-old shared the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts at bringing peace to the country. He is thought likely to become president because of his domestic popularity and international standing.

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