06/21/2006, 00.00
EAST TIMOR
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President calls on prime minister to resign

In an official letter, Xanana Gusmão asks Marí Alkatiri to quit. Former interior minister is under house arrest. He is alleged to have given out weapons to civilian militias in order to eliminate the prime minister's enemies.

Dili (AsiaNews/Agencies) – East Timorese President Xanana Gusmão has formally written to beleaguered Prime Minister Marí Alkatiri asking him to resign. Mr Alkatiri is blamed by many for the unrest that has affected the capital in the last two months.

Meanwhile, the former Interior Minister, Rogerio Lobato, is under house arrest after the prosecutor-general issued a warrant against him for giving out weapons to civilian militias, after Dili and surrounding areas saw clashes between rebel and loyalist troops followed by battles between rival ethnic gangs, the purpose of which was to physically eliminate Alkatiri's political adversaries.

The matter is currently before a special meeting of the country's Council of State.

The president's letter is said to have been handed over personally last night in the PM bureau.

Mr Altakiri has so far resisted all pressures from civil society, the military and political groups who want him out of government.

In his letter, Mr Gusmão included a videotape of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Four Corners programme this week, which outlines allegations that Mr Alkatiri at least knew that his then interior minister Rogerio Lobato, who resigned in May, had distributed weapons to a man by the code name Railos, who for his part is convinced that the former interior minister was acting on the instructions of the prime minister. Mr Alkatiri has however repeatedly denied any involvement.

Prosecutor-General Longuinhos Monteiro with help from a team of United Nations legal experts is investigating the violent incidents that took place in May in which the Alkatiri government might be involved.

The crisis unfolded after the prime minister dismissed 600 soldiers (40 per cent of the armed forces) who were on strike complaining of ethnic discrimination.

From the end of April till now the unrest has caused 20 deaths and displaced more than 100,000 people.

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Coalition government for East Timor
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