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East Timor president undergoes more surgery -doctor

CANBERRA - Australian surgeons carried out a further operation on Wednesday on East Timor's president, who remains seriously ill from triple gunshot wounds suffered in an assassination attempt, a senior doctor said.
East Timor's President Jose Ramos-Horta seen at his office in Dili in this June 29, 2007 file photo. (REUTERS/Bazuki Muhammad)

Rebel soldiers shot Jose Ramos-Horta outside his home in Dili on Monday. He was airlifted to Darwin on life support after treatment at an Australian military hospital in East Timor's capital.

"The president underwent surgery this morning and we are very pleased with his progress, although he remains in a serious but stable condition," Len Notaras, general manager of Royal Darwin Hospital, told Reuters.

Ramos-Horta has already had surgery to reconstruct his right lung, although Notaras refused to say what operation was carried out on Wednesday ahead of an afternoon press briefing by the Nobel Peace Prize winner's family.

Australian troops continued to arrive in Dili on Wednesday to reinforce international peacekeepers and the 1,600-strong United Nations police detachment, who are enforcing a state of emergency declared in the wake of Monday's attack.

Rebel leader Alfredo Reinado was killed in the pre-dawn assault, shot by Ramos-Horta's bodyguards, while a near-simultaneous separate attack on a motorcade carrying Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao failed.

Dili's streets remained calm on the last day of emergency rule, although residents said the atmosphere remained tense.

Ramos-Horta is expected to stay in a medically induced coma until next week after two rounds of surgery to rebuild his lung and remove bullet fragments. One fragment remained in his body ahead of surgery on Wednesday.

An East Timor soldier wounded in the head during the gunfight while standing guard outside Ramos-Horta's residence was also flown to Australia on Wednesday for surgery.

The former Portuguese colony of almost 1 million people gained full independence in 2002 after a U.N.-sponsored vote in 1999, marred by violence, ended more than two decades of brutal Indonesian occupation.

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