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Rudd pledges support for East Timor

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  • NEW: Rudd visits East Timor, pledges Australia's continued support
  • Australia has more than 1,000 army, police there; is the largest foreign force
  • East Timor under state of emergency
  • Suspected rebels shot and critically wounded President Ramos Horta on Monday
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From Ed Payne
CNN
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(CNN) -- Australian Prime Minster Kevin Rudd on a one-day visit to the East Timorese capital Dili Friday pledged his nation's continued support in the aftermath of this week's assassination attempts on the prime minister and president.

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Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd with Australian troops in Dili.

"Australia will stand shoulder to shoulder with East Timor into the future in its defense of its democratic system of government," Rudd said.

Australia has sent more than 200 troops and police to help stabilize East Timor since the attacks.

The security forces are in addition to an international stabilization force of about 1,000 soldiers from Australia, Malaysia, Portugal and New Zealand that have been in East Timor since it gained independence from Indonesia in 2002.

"We will remain in East Timor as long as we are invited by the government of East Timor," Rudd said at a news conference with Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao. "We want to be partners in East Timor's long-term security."

In coordinated attacks, gunmen shot President Jose Ramos-Horta twice on Monday. They also opened fire on Gusmao, but he escaped unharmed.

East Timor prosecutors said Friday they issued arrest warrants for 12 suspects in the past week's attacks on the country's top two leaders.

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Attorney General Longuinhos Monteiro told reporters in the capital, Dili, that 12 warrants were handed over to police and that five more would likely follow soon. The names of the suspects were not immediately released.

Despite the turmoil created by the attacks, Gusmao said they would not stop his country's young democracy.

"Recognizing that maintaining law and order and the protection of citizens is natural and a right given by the people of East Timor, and one which I will defend with all that is in my power," Gusmao said.

"A bullet can wound a president but never can penetrate the values of democracy."

Ramos-Horta remains in an induced coma at Australia's Royal Darwin Hospital. He was flown there after emergency surgery at an Australian military hospital in East Timor on Monday. He is expected to undergo additional surgery as his condition allows.

Ramos-Horta was shot twice in the back, and one of the bullets tore through his abdomen. A bodyguard and two attackers were also killed, including rebel leader Maj. Alfredo Reinado.

Ramos-Horta shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996 for his work on behalf of the East Timorese people during the country's quarter-century occupation by Indonesia.

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About 600 East Timorese soldiers were dismissed in March 2006 after they went on strike against alleged discrimination in the military.

Reinado, the Australian-trained former head of East Timor's military police, joined the revolt and became its leader. He was later captured, but broke out of prison and returned to lead disaffected troops. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

Copyright 2008 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

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