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East Timor independence hero Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao submits resignation

  • FILE - In this Sept. 25, 2014, file photo, East Timor Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao addresses the 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters. East Timor independence hero Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao resigned as prime minister Friday, Feb. 6, 2015, stepping down ahead of an expected restructuring of the government next week. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II, File)

    FILE - In this Sept. 25, 2014, file photo, East Timor Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao addresses the 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters. East Timor independence hero Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao resigned as prime minister Friday, Feb. 6, 2015, stepping down ahead of an expected restructuring of the government next week. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II, File)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this Oct. 24, 1999, photo, then East Timorese rebel leader Xanana Gusmao is embraced as he returns to the Armed Forces of National Liberation of East Timor (FALINTIL) rebel army camp for the first time since his release from an Indonesian prison, in Remexio, in the hills outside of Dili, East Timor. East Timor independence hero Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao resigned as prime minister Friday, Feb. 6, 2015, stepping down ahead of an expected restructuring of the government next week. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

    In this Oct. 24, 1999, photo, then East Timorese rebel leader Xanana Gusmao is embraced as he returns to the Armed Forces of National Liberation of East Timor (FALINTIL) rebel army camp for the first time since his release from an Indonesian prison, in Remexio, in the hills outside of Dili, East Timor. East Timor independence hero Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao resigned as prime minister Friday, Feb. 6, 2015, stepping down ahead of an expected restructuring of the government next week. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this Oct. 24, 1999, photo, then East Timorese rebel leader Xanana Gusmao, right, walks with Taur Matan Ruak, left, then commander of the Armed Forces of National Liberation of East Timor (FALINTIL) as he returns to the rebel army camp for the first time since his imprisonment by Indonesia, in Remexio, in the hills outside of Dili, East Timor. East Timor independence hero Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao resigned as prime minister Friday, Feb. 6, 2015, stepping down ahead of an expected restructuring of the government next week. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

    In this Oct. 24, 1999, photo, then East Timorese rebel leader Xanana Gusmao, right, walks with Taur Matan Ruak, left, then commander of the Armed Forces of National Liberation of East Timor (FALINTIL) as he returns to the rebel army camp for the first time since his imprisonment by Indonesia, in Remexio, in the hills outside of Dili, East Timor. East Timor independence hero Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao resigned as prime minister Friday, Feb. 6, 2015, stepping down ahead of an expected restructuring of the government next week. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)  (The Associated Press)

East Timor independence hero Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao resigned as prime minister Friday, stepping down ahead of an expected restructuring of the government next week.

A government statement said that Gusmao, 68, submitted his resignation to President Taur Matan Ruak.

Gusmao is a former guerrilla leader who spearheaded East Timor's drive for independence when Indonesian rule ended in 2002.

He was the first president of the new country, from 2002 to 2007, and then prime minister for more than seven years.

East Timor voted overwhelmingly in 1999 to end 24 years of brutal Indonesian occupation that had left more than 170,000 dead, but the country has struggled since then to develop economically. About half of the population of 1.2 million people live in poverty.