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E. Timor president to return home

Assassination attempt was made on his life
April 13, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
East Timorese President Jose Ramos-Horta said Sunday he would return home this week and resume his duties, two months after would-be assassins almost killed him. Ramos-Horta, speaking to reporters in Australia where he is recuperating, again gave assurances he was not planning to step down from office following the Feb. 11 attack outside his home in the East Timorese capital that critically wounded him.

"I will resume my functions as president, go back to my house and the people in the country, tens of thousands all over the country, are waiting for me," Ramos-Horta said.

He said he would arrive home on Thursday.

Ramos-Horta, 58, was rushed to the nearby city of Darwin in northern Australia after being shot twice by mutinous soldiers in front of his home in East Timor's capital, Dili. Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao escaped an ambush on his motorcade the same day.

The motive of the attacks, which followed more than a year of political turmoil and violence, remained unclear.

Ramos-Horta, a Nobel peace laureate for his role in winning his impoverished country's independence from decades of brutal Indonesian rule, said he was still in pain from his wounds, which have required multiple surgeries.

"I would say physically, externally, I am 90 percent healed," he said. "But I still have problems with the nerves that were damaged by the bullet."

Two rebels were killed by presidential security guards during the attack, while an unknown number of others escaped.

The president said he had no fears for his safety when he returns home to his heavily Roman Catholic nation.

"No, God is on my side, the people of Timor are on my side," he said.

In comments to supporters in Darwin earlier Sunday, Ramos-Horta said he was proud of his countrymen for how they handled the crisis surrounding the assassination attempts.

"The country has been most peaceful ... it did not descend into civil war or violence, even the youth gangs stopped fighting each other after Feb. 11," he said.

 

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