Eight candidates have begun campaigning for president in East Timor Friday with concerns of violence surrounding the April 9 election.

They are vying to replace the country's first president, Xanana Gusmao, who is not running for re-election.

A leading candidate is Prime Minister Jose Ramos-Horta, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work to end Indonesian rule in East Timor.

Also running for the office is veteran politician Francisco Xavier do Amaral, who lost to Mr. Gusmao in 2002.

East Timor is one of the world's newest and poorest nations. It plunged into crisis one year ago when former Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri fired 600 disgruntled soldiers.

Subsequent clashes between those troops and forces loyal to the government spiraled into gang warfare that killed more than 30 people and sent 150,000 others fleeing from their homes.

East Timor voted in a 1999 referendum for independence from Indonesia, which had annexed it after Portugal ended its colonial rule in 1975. The country became fully independent in 2002 after a period of U.N. administration.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.