06/05/2006, 00.00
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"Big rally" against premier rumoured

People plan to take to the streets to call for the resignation of the unpopular Prime Minister, blamed for the national crisis. Meanwhile violence continues unabated in the city. Parliament has met in emergency session. Australia is urging other countries to intervene.

Dili (AsiaNews) – The people of East Timor intend to take to the streets to protest against the unpopular Prime Minister, Mari Alkatiri. Rumours circulated by phone on the outskirts of Dili mentioned a "big rally" planned for tomorrow in the capital. Protesters will make forceful calls for the resignation of the prime minister, unloved by the people and part of the government.

Meanwhile violence continues around Dili, where an emergency session of Parliament is under way. Until tomorrow, MPs will discuss how to tackle the situation, evaluating several measures, including the state of emergency declared on 30 May by the President Xanana Gusmao. Within the government, a power struggle is under way between the head of state and Prime Minister Alkatiri, held to be responsible for the crisis. The Church has also said a change of government is necessary to bring peace.

So far, the intervention of overseas troops, who arrived in the small country at the end of May, has not served to quell the violence. Australia, which is leading the foreign forces, has admitted the difficulties inherent in the operation and urged other countries to join the multi-national force, currently made up of New Zealanders, Portuguese and Malaysians. Despite the presence of more than 2,500 troops, groups of armed youth continue to loot shops, burn down homes and to fight in clashes that have been described as "ethnic" (between gangs of west and east). However, analysts on site say the clashes are aimed at destabilizing the government and deposing Alkatiri. The most serious episodes of violence took place yesterday in Comoro, a suburb of the capital. Machetes and knives in hand, criminals appear to be heading for the heart of the capital, according to local media. "At the moment, we can still see black smoke coming from homes burnt duringthe  clashes."

Today, the Australian Foreign Affairs Minister, Alexander Downer, admitted that youth gangs were coordinated among themselves and that resolving the situation "was proving difficult". Canberra is asking whether the UN can take over command of the operation.  At least 20 people have been killed in the past two weeks of violence.

Current disorder in Dili followed preceding clashes between rebel and loyalist soldiers. Everything started in March when 600 troops, a third of the small nation's army, went on strike against favoritism and ethnic discrimination. After they failed to report to barracks for a month, the strikers were fired en masse by the prime minister, who failed to respond to their requests and paved the way for revolt. The sacked soldiers come from the west while army leaders hail from the east.

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Ramos-Horta loses E Timor presidential election, Guterres and Ruak in runoff
UN makes urgent appeal for 18 million dollars for East Timor
Call for independent, international, inquiry into recent unrest
More than 1000 march against premier in Dili
No let up in Dili violence: homes ablaze, foreign troops under arms


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