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August 7, 2007

Street violence greets new East Timor leader
Gangs angry at the appointment of independence hero Xanana Gusmao as prime minister hurled rocks and torched tires in East Timor's capital on August 7 as the former ruling party vowed to challenge Gusmao in the courts, Associated Press reported.

The United Nations described the violence in Dili as "sporadic and isolated" and said international police and army officers deployed in the country were in control of the situation.

East Timor broke free from decades of Indonesian rule in 1999 in a U.N.-sponsored referendum. Three years later it became Asia's newest country, but the euphoria quickly evaporated amid the challenges of governing a divided and poverty-stricken nation.

Last year, a military mutiny sparked clashes between rival troops that led to gang violence, arson and looting. More than 35 people were killed and some 150,000 others fled their homes before the collapse of the government and the deployment of foreignpeacekeepers.

On August 6, President Jose Ramos-Horta named Gusmao the country's next prime minister, breaking a political logjam following inconclusive parliamentary elections in June.

The former ruling Fretilin party won 21 seats in the 65-member Parliament, well short of a majority. Gusmao's party won 18 but formed a coalition that now comprises 37 seats.

"We will do everything we can to raise awareness among the people so they can combat through legal means this usurping of power," said Fretilin party head and former Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri. "Fretilin will initiate multiple actions within the law to ensure respect for the Constitution."

Gusmao, who was the country's first president, is to be sworn in on August 8.

Neighboring Australia, which contributes most of the foreign soldiers to the peacekeeping force, congratulated the former freedom fighter.

"Gusmao has been a key figure in East Timor's recent history, and Australia looks forward to working with him and his government," said Foreign Minister Alexander Downer. "I encourage all parties to work constructively to allow East Timor to address its challenges and move forward."

Gusmao is revered by many in East Timor for leading the armed resistance to Indonesian rule, but like Alkatiri his reputation has been tarnished by last year's violence. Both men have been accused of fueling divisions to further their political ambitions. AP

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