Page last updated at 06:45 GMT, Friday, 28 March 2008

E Timor leader criticises troops

By Phil Mercer
BBC News, Sydney

Jose Ramos-Horta, 19/03
Mr Ramos-Horta praised troops who gave blood to save his life

East Timor's president has criticised Australian-led forces for failing to capture the rebels who shot him outside his home in Dili last month.

Jose Ramos-Horta told for the first time how he inadvertently walked into an ambush and watched as a gunman lifted his rifle to shoot him.

Mr Ramos-Horta insisted international peacekeepers were too slow in their attempts to apprehend his attackers.

Eight rebels have surrendered, while the hunt for other suspects continues.

Mr Ramos-Horta almost died when he was shot by rebel soldiers in the East Timorese capital Dili.

He is recovering from surgery in the northern Australian city of Darwin, and has been recalling the attempt on his life.

Donors praised

The president said that help was slow to arrive as he bled in the street outside his home.

He told Australian television that he believed United Nations police had obstructed those who were trying to rescue him.

There was criticism too for international troops, accused by Mr Ramos-Horta of not doing enough to stop his attackers escaping.

"I would say that Australian-led forces could have promptly surrounded the entire town, closing all the exits, using helicopter, sending immediately elements to my house to get the information on the ground.

"They would have captured them within hours, because for many hours after the attack on my house they were still in the hills around my house."

Australia's Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon said given the gravity of his injuries, the president could not objectively judge whether the response from peacekeepers was timely.

Despite the criticism, Mr Ramos-Horta has been full of praise for Australian soldiers whose donated blood helped to save his life.

The attack on Mr Ramos-Horta coincided with an ambush on the home of East Timor's Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao, who escaped unharmed.

Clashes between army mutineers and units loyal to the East Timorese government in 2006 prompted military intervention by Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Portugal.

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific