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Gusmao Resigns From Timor Post

March 28, 2001

DILI, East Timor (AP) _ Independence leader Jose Alexandre ``Xanana″ Gusmao resigned Wednesday as head of East Timor’s interim parliament, complaining that political squabbling was hampering preparations for full independence.

In a letter to East Timor’s U.N. administrator, Sergio Vieira de Mello, Gusmao said the National Council, which consists of 36 members appointed by the United Nations, no longer reflects the views of the people.

``I, as president of the National Council, feel that any effort toward trying to overcome the impasse is in vain due to the lack of will on the part of (the council’s) members,″ Gusmao said in his letter of resignation.

``We are unable to make a comment as the transitional administrator and Xanana have not had an opportunity to meet,″ U.N. spokeswoman Barbara Reis said.

The resignation follows a recent acrimonious debate in the legislature about the constitution. Gusmao appears to have been angered that his own party, Fretilin, blocked a proposal to canvass all of East Timor’s 600,000 people about their views.

The territory has been under U.N. administration since 1999, when an overwhelming majority of its people voted for independence from Indonesia, which invaded the former Portuguese colony in 1975 and then annexed it.

Elections are set for August for an 88-seat constituent assembly that will draw up a constitution.

Gusmao, who led Fretilin in its long battle against Indonesian rule, is widely expected to become East Timor’s first president when it achieves full independence next year.

Wednesday was not the first time Gusmao has resigned after disagreements with political rivals.

On Aug. 27, he announced his resignation from the territory’s main political coalition, the National Council of Timorese Resistance. He changed his mind later that day, saying he underestimated the strength of his popular support.

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