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Thursday, 18 April, 2002, 09:32 GMT 10:32 UK
East Timor leaders look to future
East Timor's future Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri, left, Sergio Vieira de Mello, centre, and Xanana Gusmao
Prime minister and president-in-waiting
East Timor's President elect, Xanana Gusmao, has met the future Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri, in an attempt to smooth the troubled relations between himself and Mr Alkatiri's Fretilin party.

In a meeting attended by the UN chief in the territory, Sergio Vieira de Mello, they agreed to discuss the transition to independence on 20 May and the celebrations themselves, as well as prepare for a meeting at the UN Security Council next week.

Mr Gusmao was a member of Fretilin when it was first formed in 1974 and from 1981 commanded its guerrilla wing, Falantil, but has since distanced himself from the party, which holds a majority in East Timor's provisional legislature.

Key facts:
  • President to serve for five years
  • New parliament already elected
  • Independence on 20 May
    See also:
      Profile of East Timor

  • Fretilin is thought to be unhappy with Mr Gusmao's calls for reconciliation with those responsible for violence and killing after East Timor's 1999 vote for independence from Indonesia.

    The former guerrilla fighter has reportedly refused to meet Fretilin leaders for nearly a year.


    When Mr Gusmao's runaway victory in the presidency poll was announced on Wednesday, however, Mr Alkatiri said: "I have come here to congratulate Xanana Gusmao. I do this from the bottom of my heart, believe it or not."

    Mr Gusmao himself spoke of the "great challenge" facing the fledgling nation in the next five years.

    "The expectations are high, the anxieties and necessities are enormous," Mr Gusmao told a news conference.

    East Timor will be one of the poorest countries in Asia once it assumes full independence next month. Correspondents say it also faces big problems in areas like health and local government.

    In Indonesia, where East Timor's independence was strongly opposed by the military and conservative politicians, Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda congratulated Mr Gusmao during a phone conversation on Wednesday.

    In a sign of Mr Gusmao's determination for reconciliation, he spoke of his desire to "enhance close relations with Indonesia" during the call, according to an Indonesian spokesman.

    However, the speaker of Indonesia's parliament Akbar Tandjung told the state news agency Antara that President Megawati should not attend East Timor's independence celebrations.

    Landslide win

    The official electoral commission announced Mr Gusmao won 83% of votes cast in Sunday's election, compared to just 17% for his only challenger, Francisco Xavier do Amaral.

    East Timor is currently under UN administration, and Mr Gusmao will take up his largely ceremonial post when East Timor gains full independence next month.

    Mr Gusmao, 55, is widely regarded as a symbol of East Timor's struggle for independence since it was invaded and annexed by Indonesia in 1975.

    East Timor voted for independence from Indonesia two and a half years ago. The vote triggered serious violence. About 1,000 people were murdered by pro-Indonesian militias opposed to independence.

    Since then, the territory has been administered by the UN.

    See also:

    17 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
    E Timor warned of challenge ahead
    04 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
    Gusmao calls East Timor refugees home
    09 Jan 02 | Asia-Pacific
    Wiranto attacks Timor trials as 'unfair'
    26 Feb 02 | Asia-Pacific
    Australia pledges $3m to East Timor
    25 Feb 02 | Asia-Pacific
    E Timor, Indonesia sign accords
    21 Jan 02 | Asia-Pacific
    East Timor launches truth commission
    12 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
    Eyewitness: East Timor's road to recovery
    18 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
    Indonesian papers welcome Gusmao's win
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