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E. Timor's New PM Vows to Improve Security and Development


East Timor's newly appointed interim prime minister, Jose Ramos-Horta, has taken the oath of office, swearing to restore unity and speed up development in the troubled Southeast Asian nation.

East Timorese Prime Minister Jose Ramos-Horta says he aims to improve internal security and restore hope to the nation after weeks of unrest.

The Nobel Peace Prize laureate made his comments after a brief inauguration ceremony in the capital, Dili. He told reporters he planned to consolidate the security forces, and hoped that thousands of Timorese refugees would soon feel safe enough to return home.

An estimated 150,000 people have been living outside Dili since street violence broke out between rival military factions earlier this year. Scores of people were killed in the fighting.

Mr. Ramos-Horta, previously foreign minister, was named to his new post Saturday by President Xanana Gusmao. At his swearing-in, he said he would work to speed up the tiny country's development.

"We will work very hard, fast, with the assistance of the World Bank, so that the budget that is allocated for assisting the development in rural areas, assisting the poor, development of infrastructure, all that can be expedited," he said.

He earlier said he is aiming to restore East Timorese faith in the country's state institutions and political leaders, with the help of international peacekeeping forces.

He replaces former Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri, who resigned amid allegations he helped to arm militia during the chaos that paralyzed Dili in May. More than 2,000 foreign troops, mostly from Australia, were called in to restore calm.

Mr. Ramos-Horta has been touted as a unifying force. He is not a member of the Fretilin Party, which holds a majority in parliament, but has agreed to share leadership with two vice presidents from that caucus.

Tim Anderson, a political economist who lectures on East Timor at the University of Sydney, says the prime minister's proven abilities provide hope for the country's future.

"... I think Ramos-Horta, given that he is a brilliant diplomat and that he is in the past managed to accommodate, certainly, powerful interests, I think the hope is that he will help restore some stability," said Anderson.

The country's leaders must now finish choosing a cabinet to run the interim government. A government spokesman says the remaining ministers will be sworn in Wednesday.

Mr. Ramos-Horta garnered a Nobel Peace Prize in 1996 for his part in East Timor's campaign for independence from Indonesia, which ruled the territory for 24 years. He is expected to stay at his post until elections next May.

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