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Violence Erupts After Gusmao Named East Timor Prime Minister


Violence erupted in East Timor after former president Xanana Gusmao was appointed prime minister. VOA's Nancy-Amelia Collins in Jakarta reports the nomination was made more than a month after parliamentary elections in which no party won a clear majority.

East Timor President Jose Ramos Horta used his constitutional right to ask a coalition of parties led by his predecessor, Xanana Gusmao, to form a new government.

Mr. Gusmao now becomes prime minister.

The announcement immediately sparked a wave of violence.

U.N. mission spokeswoman Allison Cooper says at least one building in the capital, Dili, was set on fire.

"Since that announcement, we are receiving reports of isolated and sporadic incidents of violence around Dili," she said.

Similar violence was reported in other parts of the country, but there were no immediate reports of casualties.

The June 30 parliamentary elections, although contested by 14 parties, boiled down to a race between Mr. Gusmao's CNRT Party and the Fretilin Party, which had controlled the government.

Although Fretilin won more seats than the CNRT, none of the parties won an outright majority. Mr. Gusmao's CNRT formed a coalition with several smaller parties to build a majority in the 63-seat parliament.

Fretilin's leader, former prime minister Mari Alkatiri, says it is illegal for the CNRT coalition to form a government. He says Fretilin will not work with the new government.

During the election campaign in June, Mr. Gusmao's party drew huge crowds, in part because of his popularity for his years spent fighting for independence from Indonesia.

East Timor has been struggling to strengthen its fledgling democracy since violence erupted in May 2006, after the firing of around a third of the army. Fighting between rival security forces deteriorated into gang looting, arson, and street fighting. Tens of thousands of people fled Dili to live in refugee camps, where many remain.

Order was restored after the government requested an Australian-led international peacekeeping force, which remains in the country. Following the violence, Mr. Alkatiri resigned as prime minister, and was replaced by Mr. Ramos-Horta, who then was elected president in May.

East Timor voted for independence from Indonesia in 1999. After anti-independence militias devastated the country, the United Nations administered East Timor until it became fully independent in 2002.

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