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East Timor's PM Xanana Gusmao offers to resign

Xanana Gusmao (centre). File photo Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Xanana Gusmao is seen as a towering and unifying figure in East Timor's history

East Timor's Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao - who led the nation to independence from Indonesia in 2002 - has submitted his resignation letter.

Confirming the move, President Taur Matan Ruak's spokesman said the request would now be considered.

After East Timor won independence Mr Gusmao, a former guerrilla leader, became its first president and then PM.

But he has hinted for some time that he would like to step down and allow a new generation of leaders to come forward.

"The government confirms that the prime minister of Timor-Leste... has sent his letter of resignation from the post of prime minister to the president of the republic," a government statement said.

"It is now for the president of the republic to consider and respond to the letter of resignation," it added.

It is not yet clear who might replace Mr Gusmao, 68.

For many in East Timor, he is a legendary figure, says the BBC's Karishma Vaswani in Jakarta.

He spent 17 years in the mountains, waging a difficult war against Indonesia's occupation.

Eventually captured, he spent seven years behind bars but continued to lead the struggle for independence.

When it came, Mr Gusmao became East Timor's leader but the days of glory were short-lived, our correspondent adds.

The country was soon plunged into economic crisis and political instability. High unemployment has meant many young people are disillusioned with the way the country is run.

Mr Gusmao has remained a unifying figure but he has also recently battled allegations of corruption and nepotism within his party.

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