Jubilation as East Timor's Ramos-Horta returns home (video)

Other News Materials 17 April 2008 11:53 (UTC +04:00)

(dpa) - East Timor President Jose Ramos-Horta received a tumultuous welcome Thursday on his return to Dili after treatment in Australia for gunshot wounds sustained in a failed insurrection two months ago.

Clearly energized by the outpouring of affection from the thousands who greeted him at Comoro airport, he said calm had returned to the tiny nation after a botched coup in which Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao had also been targeted.

Gusmao escaped unscathed in the February 11 attacks in which rebel leader Major Alfredo Reinado was shot dead.

"I ask the government and the parliament to see how we can use our oil receipts to buy food for the poor," the former prime minister told reporters. "The state and the government should look into this. This is my preoccupation."

His remarks were taken as evidence that Ramos-Horta, who looked gaunt and grey, intends to continue his presidency despite being months away from a complete recovery.

The 58-year-old Nobel laureate urged rebels that remain at large, including Reinado accomplice Gastao Salsinha, to surrender.

"I don't want Gastao Salsinha to die, I don't want his wife to become a widow, I don't want his mother and father to be upset by his death," Ramos-Horta said.

Ramos-Horta shared the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize with compatriot Bishop Carlos Belo for leading the diplomatic campaign for East Timor's freedom.

Indonesia invaded the former Portuguese colony in 1975 and its occupation continued until 1999, the year Australia led an international force that helped guide the nation of 1 million to independence.

Ramos-Horta took over as interim prime minister a year ago after Mari Alkatiri resigned in the wake of violence that forced thousands to flee their homes for refugee camps.

He was elected president last year, taking over from Xanana Gusmao, who was in turn elected prime minister.