02/06/2015, 00.00
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East Timor's Premier Xanana Gusmao to resign

Hero of the war for independence against Indonesia and a practicing Catholic, he has always been a leading figure in the country. After his letter of resignation, President Taur Matan Ruak will consider whether to accept it or not. At the helm of nation for years, Gusmao wants to step down to "open a space for a new generation" of leaders.

Dili (AsiaNews) - East Timor's Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao - who led the nation to independence from Indonesia in 2002 - has submitted his resignation letter to President Taur Matan Ruak who will now consider the request.

Born in Manatuto when the country was still a Portuguese colony, Xanana Gusmao is a practicing Catholic and a hero of the anti-Indonesian resistance. He had hinted for some time that he would like to step down to "open a space for a new generation" of leaders.

He spent 17 years in the jungles and mountains of his country, eluding capture by Indonesian forces. Captured, he spent years in jail without betraying the cause.

In April 2002 he became the country's first president after free elections were held and has always played a leading role in its political life ever since.

In 2007, he declined to run. The elections that followed left the country in a mess. Then President Ramos Horta named him prime minister to calm things down.

Although Mr Gusmao has remained a unifying figure in the country, the only predominantly Catholic country in Asia along with the Philippines, he has had to face several political and especially economic crises.

High unemployment over the past ten years has been compounded by allegations of corruption and nepotism against him.

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