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Saturday, 23 February, 2002, 07:46 GMT
Gusmao runs for E Timor presidency
Xanana Gusmao (centre) surrounded by supporters in East Timor
Gusmao is hailed as a hero in East Timor
East Timor independence leader Xanana Gusmao has declared he will stand in the territory's first presidential election on 14 April.

Mr Gusmao, a former guerrilla, has earned the support of most of the territory's political parties.

"I continue to believe that I am not the ideal person for this job, but I will do the best job that I can," he said at a news conference in the capital, Dili.

His only opponent in the election will be Francisco Xavier do Amaral, who served as president for nine days between the withdrawal of former colonial power Portugal in 1975 and the invasion by Indonesian forces.

Correspondents say the presidential role is likely to be ceremonial, as the country's constitution calls for a parliamentary style of government.

Guerrilla hero

The BBC's Richard Galpin in Jakarta says Mr Gusmao has always been a reluctant politician, with even the decision to file for presidency being left to just before the deadline.

Popular and charismatic, he is considered a hero in East Timor after he commanded the guerrilla army Falantil against Indonesia during their occupation of East Timor.

In 1992 he was captured in Dili and jailed for life by the Indonesian authorities, before being freed in 1999 eight days after East Timor voted for independence.

After the vote a campaign of killings and destruction by pro-Jakarta militias gripped the territory until the arrival of an Australian-led international peacekeeping force.

Since then it has come under United Nations administration, and Mr Gusmao has worked hard with both sides to ensure a peaceful transition of power.

East Timor will assume full independence on 20 May following the April elections.

The BBC's Richard Galpin
"Mr Gusmao remains an extremely popular and charismatic leader"
See also:

01 Nov 01 | Asia-Pacific
UN renews support for East Timor
21 Jan 02 | Asia-Pacific
East Timor launches truth commission
29 Oct 01 | Asia-Pacific
Gusmao 'agrees' date for independence
25 Aug 01 | Asia-Pacific
Gusmao runs for Timor presidency
06 Sep 01 | Asia-Pacific
Victory for Timor freedom party
21 Sep 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: East Timor
30 Aug 00 | East Timor
Analysis: Gusmao's key role
21 Feb 02 | Asia-Pacific
Indonesia charges seven over E Timor
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