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New Timor government sworn in

The ceremony was guarded by Australian-led foreign peacekeepers sent to Dili to restore calm after East Timor descended into violence.

india Updated: Jul 14, 2006 13:05 IST

East Timor's President Xanana Gusmao swore in a new government on Friday as his tiny nation looked for a return to political order after several weeks of unrest.

The ministers, witnessed by the freshly-installed Prime Minister Jose Ramos-Horta and his two deputies, placed their hands on East Timor's constitution and in a brief oath promised to serve the new nation.

"In the name of God and the people, I swear to fulfill all my duties and responsibilities that have been given to me, in accordance with the constitution," said Arcanjo da Silva, one of seven new ministers.

The ceremony was guarded by around 40 of the more than 2,200 Australian-led foreign peacekeepers sent to Dili to restore calm after East Timor descended into violence in May.

In a speech to the small crowd of church leaders, diplomats and local non-government groups, Gusmao said the installation of the new government was a small step towards stability.

"Today we close a cycle of profound crisis that has subjected our people to unpredictable and unjust sufferings and distress."

Gusmao warned the new cabinet to focus on the country's youth and veterans who fought off Indonesian occupation if they wanted to avoid further unrest in the impoverished nation.

"I told them (ministers) to pay attention to the youth and the veterans, because the violence that appeared happened because so many youths don't have any work," he said.

"This should be a warning to all the government and the country, that this (unemployment) is not a burden that only youth have to bear," he added.

At least 21 people were killed and some 150,000 people fled their homes amid battles between rival factions of the military and police as well as ethnic gangs, who roamed the streets armed with swords and axes.

Gusmao also called on the new government to ensure that the perpetrators of the violence did not escape justice.

"We must make enormous efforts to bring reconciliation amongst all the Timorese and to heal the wounds that have divided us. But there is no reconciliation without truth and truth demands justice so that the wrongdoings, and the confidence in the impunity, will not be repeated," he said.

The United Nations along with East Timor's independent prosecutor general has launched an inquiry into the May violence.

Mari Alkatiri resigned as prime minister last month to take responsibility for the mayhem. He also faces questioning over allegations he armed a civilian hit squad tasked with eliminating his opponents.

May's violence was the worst to hit the nation since it voted for independence from Jakarta in 1999 in a United Nations-backed referendum.

Jose Luis Guterres, the country's ambassador to the United States, was chosen as foreign minister in the new government.

Da Silva, five other ministers and several new deputy ministers were also sworn in.

Ramos-Horta, who announced the appointment of Guterres on Thursday, said he would still hold the defence portfolio, which he took over when the former defence minister was sacked at the request of the armed forces chief.

The new cabinet was expected to meet later Friday and begin discussing the 2006-7 budget.