QUITO, Ecuador (AP) _ President Lucio Gutierrez will set a national example and start showing up on time for meetings and appointments in an effort to combat a national lack of punctuality, a government spokesman said Monday.

``The president has made the decision that punctuality will be the government's rule,'' spokesman Marcelo Cevallos said in an interview with Teleamazonas television.

It was unclear when the initiative would begin, however, as Cevallos apologized to the audience for showing up late for the interview.

Gutierrez, who took office in January, has frequently been criticized by the media and political opponents for his habitual tardiness _ arriving as much as three hours late for appointments.

The presidential pledge comes after local private group Citizen Participation launched a national campaign to promote punctuality earlier this month.

Locally referred to as keeping ``Ecuadorean Time,'' the nation is known for showing up late to sporting, media and government events _ which rarely start on time.