Subject: Australia Hails Horta, Poll

Agence France-Presse Thursday, May 17, 2007

Australia hails ETimor president, poll

Australia on Thursday congratulated Jose Ramos-Horta on his election as president of East Timor, calling the vote a major step in consolidating democracy in the impoverished nation.

"This was the first national election managed by the East Timorese themselves, and I congratulate the people of East Timor for a peaceful election," Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said in a statement.

"The high level of voter participation -- 81 percent -- is a demonstration of the East Timorese people's commitment to their country's democratic future. "This election was a major step in consolidating democracy in the world's youngest nation. It was also a significant indication of progress that has been made since the unrest of just 12 months ago."

UN and local police, backed by foreign peacekeeping troops, have been restoring security in the troubled nation after violence erupted between rival groups in May last year leaving 37 people dead.

Ramos-Horta, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, was officially declared East Timor's president on Wednesday and will be sworn in Sunday.

He won 69 percent of the vote in the election, raising hopes among many East Timorese that he will bring peace and heal divisions after last year's unrest.

The election was the impoverished nation's first since it won independence in 2002 following a bloody separation from occupying Indonesian forces.

Downer also paid tribute to outgoing president Xanana Gusmao.

-------------------------------- Joyo Indonesia News Service

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