Subject: Gusmao rules out bid for East Timor presidency

Gusmao rules out bid for East Timor presidency

DILI, East Timor, Dec 31 (AFP) - East Timor's leader Xanana Gusmao said here Friday that he foresaw the territory obtaining full independence in at most two years and said he did not plan to become its first president.

"I will not be standing as a candidate for presidency. It is not an obligation," he said.

Gusmao, who had been widely expected to become the first leader of an independent East Timor, said his stance was intended as a signal that leaders of the independence struggle did not have an automatic right to power in the new country.

In a year-end speech, Gusmao unveiled a three-stage plan for the first 25 years of the next century prepared by the National Resistance Council of East Timor (CNRT), which he heads.

The first stage, which he called "Stage A" consisted of "a one to two year transition to independence," Gusmao said.

The UN Transitional Authority in East Timor (UNTAET) which took over the authority over East Timor from the Indonesian government in October has estimated that independence would come only in two to three years.

Gusmao said that the transition to independence will encompass two essential aspects.

"The technical training of East timorese with the support of UNTAET and which will commence with the physical reconstruction of basic infrastructure and the process of political maturation of the Timorese society, the responsibility for which rests with the CNRT," he said.

Gusmao said that the second stage of the plan, "Stage B" will last some 10 to 15 years "during which the national development strategy will be implemented.

The third and last stage, "Stage C" will be for the consolidation of independence, he said.

Gusmao also pledged that the CNRT would work to establish East Timor as a democratic state. "True development cannot exist in the absence of true democracy," Gusmao said.

But he also warned that, "I think, essentially, that we, the East Timorese people, have to start thinking about the possibility of failure in our independence process."

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