East Timor's Ramos-Horta returns home to warm welcome

DILI - East Timor's president, Jose Ramos-Horta, arrived home on Thursday to a cheering crowd of thousands after more than two months of treatment in Australia for injuries sustained in an assassination attempt in February.
A military parade welcomed Ramos-Horta as he stepped out of the plane at Dili's airport where people waved national flags and carried photographs of the president as they shouted "Viva president Ramos-Horta."
The 58-year-old Nobel laureate, who was shot and critically wounded in an attack by rebel soldiers at his home in Dili on February 11, thanked parliament, government officials, the church, the people of East Timor and the international community for their support.
"I'm happy to be back in Timor-Leste," Ramos-Horta told a news conference at the airport, where he was received by Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao, opposition leader Mari Alkatiri and other government ministers and diplomats.
He drove to his beachside house to the beating of drums played by students and a traditional welcome dance while soldiers stood guard.
"I'm happy that he is back. He will bring unity to the country," said Joao Freitas, a local resident who sat near Ramos-Horta's thatched-roof house, watching people dance.
Ramos-Horta nearly lost his life when he was shot twice after gunmen loyal to rebel leader Alfredo Reinado launched early-morning attacks on the president and Gusmao in Dili in February. Gusmao escaped unharmed in the attack.
The president also asked the leader of army rebels Gastao Salsinha, who took command of rebel soldiers after Reinado, to surrender.
"I ask Gastao Salsinha not to keep staying in the jungle but to surrender soon to the church or the state authorities and face justice," Ramos-Horta said.
"I don't want anybody to die," he said, holding back his tears. "Gastao should surrender to justice and hand over his weapons."
East Timor has tightened security for the veteran freedom-fighter who has always shunned heavy security and had said he will remain in his isolated Dili residence, despite advice from security officials to move to a more secure location.
Ramos-Horta, co-winner of the 1996 Nobel peace prize, has often said he wished for a quieter life to write his memoirs of East Timor's long struggle for independence from Indonesian rule.
He told CNN recently he would miss the days when he could mingle with his people without being bothered about security.
"I am saddened by the fact that these pleasures may be gone for me now," he said. "We have lost something. But we will find a way to remain close."
As Asia's youngest nation, East Timor has been unable to achieve stability since its hard-won independence, despite its oil and gas resources.
The East Timor army tore apart along regional lines in 2006, when about 600 soldiers were sacked, triggering factional violence that killed 37 people.
More than 2,500 foreign troops and police remain in the country to help local security forces maintain stability.
(Reporting by Tito Belo; Writing by Ahmad Pathoni; Editing by Sugita Katyal and Sanjeev Miglani)
Source: Reuters from Yahoo News word