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Opposition figure to be PM in East Timor unity government

 An opposition politician is set to become East Timor`s new prime minister after the resignation of independence hero Xanana Gusmao, it was announced Tuesday, as the country seeks to form a national unity government.



Dili: An opposition politician is set to become East Timor`s new prime minister after the resignation of independence hero Xanana Gusmao, it was announced Tuesday, as the country seeks to form a national unity government.

Former guerrilla fighter Gusmao submitted his resignation as premier last week after serving as either president or prime minister since East Timor became independent in 2002 following a long struggle against Indonesian occupation.

The government said Tuesday the president had accepted the nomination of former health minister Rui Araujo, from the opposition Fretilin party and the long-time favourite to be the next prime minister, after holding talks with political parties. 

His name was put forward by Gusmao`s party, which holds the most seats in parliament and has traditionally been a rival of Fretilin.

The president will meet soon with Araujo, and it is expected a new government will be inaugurated "at the end of this week", according to a government statement. 

Analysts said that bringing Araujo and Fretilin into government was aimed at easing the half-island nation`s often fraught politics.

"He`s a unifying figure... His appointment as prime minister means the government will be a government of national unity," Damien Kingsbury, an East Timor expert from Australia`s Deakin University, told AFP.

He added that Araujo was "very, very popular" and regarded as "one of the young generation". 

Gusmao, 68, has said he wants his resignation to enable the transition to a new generation of leaders. 

Araujo studied public health in New Zealand and has had an extensive career as a doctor and medical professional. He became health minister in East Timor`s first post-independence government, and later also served as deputy prime minister.

Gusmao`s departure deprives Asia`s youngest nation of a unifying premier credited with helping hold the country together during its fraught early years, but analysts say he may remain in government in a lesser role to ensure a smooth transition.

Gusmao, who spent years living in the jungle during Indonesian occupation, had signalled over the past year that he would be stepping down but delayed the move repeatedly.

He led the military wing of East Timor`s campaign against Indonesian occupation and was imprisoned in Jakarta for several years. He returned to his homeland a hero in 1999 after the Timorese voted for independence in a UN-backed referendum.

More than 180,000 people are estimated to have died from fighting, disease and starvation during Indonesia`s 24-year occupation of East Timor. Recent years have been largely peaceful. 

From Zee News

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