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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 May 2007, 05:22 GMT 06:22 UK
Profile: Xanana Gusmao
Xanana Gusmao - 29/05/06
Mr Gusmao became known as the 'poet warrior'
East Timor's former guerrilla leader Xanana Gusmao repeatedly said he did not want to be the new country's first president, insisting he would rather be a pumpkin farmer or photographer.

But after East Timor voted to break away from Indonesian rule in August 1999, there was no other serious contender.

After leading his nation for the first tentative years of independence, he announced that he would step aside from the presidency early in 2007, and is now concentrating on campaigning to become the prime minister in parliamentary elections in June.

Mr Gusmao is a legend among his people. He fought an armed rebellion against Indonesian rule for two decades, spent more than six years in an Indonesian prison and under house arrest. He was released on 7 September 1999, just days after East Timor's landmark referendum result was announced.

The vote sparked a wave of bloodshed led by pro-Jakarta militias opposed to independence.

While president, Mr Gusmao made it clear he favoured an amnesty for those accused of the violence - putting him at odds with his former political party, Fretilin (Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor), which controls the legislature elected in August 2001.

There have been reports of tensions between the two, with Mr Gusmao making veiled attacks on unnamed government members for leading a lavish lifestyle while normal people went without basic healthcare and education.

'Supernatural status'

A charismatic man of the people, Mr Gusmao vowed to devote his five-year term to being the people's "eyes, ears and mouth".

But with so much to live up to, there was always a risk he would become the kind of leader Mr Gusmao had himself criticised.

"No, I do not want to become president, because if you look at almost every revolutionary struggle, the leaders who are there while in opposition become leaders of a new nation and they have nothing more to give,' he once said.

Born in the town of Manatuto on 20 June 1946 Jose Alexandre Gusmao was the second son in a family of nine children.

He spent four years at a Jesuit seminary in Dare, in the hills overlooking Dili, and attended Dili High School.

He did three years compulsory service in the colonial Portuguese forces and later worked in the local government department of the colonial administration.

While in prison he wrote poetry and painted, earning the description "poet warrior". It added to the almost supernatural status he attained during his life in the jungle.

One such myth was that he had powers to turn into a creature to evade capture.

Mr Gusmao and his second wife, long-time Australian partner Kirsty Sword, have three children. He also has two children from a previous marriage.




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East Timorese president Xanana Gusmao
"This building reminds people that we must be humble in our expectations"





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