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Australia Prime Minister in East Timor for crisis talks


Dili : Australia’s Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made a lightning visit to East Timor’s locked-down capital Dili on Friday in a show of strength after a double assassination attempt on the fledgling nation’s leadership, Reuters reported.

With President Jose Ramos-Horta recovering from double gunshot wounds in an Australian hospital, Rudd shook hands with his East Timor counterpart Xanana Gusmao before meeting senior United Nations and Australian military officials.

“An immediate response to Timor Leste (East Timor) during this time of insecurity is a sign that our neighbour has a great faith in democracy and that the protection of our democracy is central to establishing a climate of peace and security,” Gusmao told a press conference after meeting with Rudd.

“Our nation is a proud nation. We are ready to progress from volatility to stability, and from fear to confidence. Many people ask is this achievable in light of this week’s events? Yes, it is achievable, because a bullet can wound a president but it never can penetrate the values of democracy,” Gusmao added.

Security was tight in Dili for Rudd’s expected three-hour visit, with Canberra having sent more than 200 rapid-reaction troops and police to reinforce local and international security forces, including 800 Australian troops already on the ground.

“The purpose of my visit today is to state in clear and loud terms that Australia will stand shoulder to shoulder into the future in the defence of East Timor’s democratic system of government,” Rudd said at the joint press conference.

“Australia is here for the good times, the bad times and the difficult times.”

He said Australian troops would stay for as long as East Timor’s government wanted them to be there. The two leaders also discussed further economic co-operation in areas such as infrastructure development, youth employment and rural development.

Ramos-Horta, 58, was shot at his home on Monday after rebel soldiers led by Alfredo Reinado launched a pre-dawn assault.

Reinardo was killed in the gunfight, while Gusmao escaped injury in a near-simultaneous attack on his motorcade.

Rudd was expected to visit Ramos-Horta at Royal Darwin Hospital later on Friday ahead of another round of surgery for the Nobel Peace Prize winner.