06/22/2006, 00.00
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President threatens to resign, country on edge

In a televised address to the nation, President Xanana Gusmão said he felt ashamed for what has happened to the country and has attacked his beleaguered prime minister, telling him to assume responsibility for its crisis. People now fear the worst.

Dili (AsiaNews) – Everyone in East Timor is hoping their president won't resign as announced. Local source told AsiaNews that should Gusmão quit the young country might fall in a spiral of violence similar to what happened when it voted for independence from Indonesia.

In a live televised address, Mr Gusmão said he will resign tomorrow and attacked the prime minister for his role in the crisis that has thrown the East Timor in turmoil. A former leader of the anti-Indonesian resistance, he said that he will submit a letter of resignation to parliament because he was "ashamed of all the bad things that have happened".

The nation-wide address came a few hours after the ruling Fretilin party, the former pro-independence movement, rallied behind Prime Minister Marí Alkatiri, whom Mr Gusmão had urged to quit.

Local observers believe that the move by the president, who also belongs to Fretilin, must seen as an ultimatum to the party to choose between plunging the country in chaos or trying to save it.

The crisis began when the prime minister dismissed 600 soldiers (40 per cent of the armed forces) for striking, claiming ethnic discrimination.

In a letter to the prime minister, President Gusmão had said he had "lost all confidence in his leadership" after evidence was made public that Alkatiri was involved in armed civilian gangs hired to eliminate political opponents.

Mr Alkatiri has steadfastly denied any involvement, but his former interior minister, Rogerio Lobato, is under house arrest.

Gusmão's attack against his first minister was stinging. He called on him "assume responsibility for the crisis the country in going through and that is threatening the survival of rule of law and democratic legality".

It is still unclear how the situation will evolve. For weeks Alkatiri has resisted calls for his resignation, relying solely on support from his party, whereas President Gusmão not only has the support of the population but has recently gained the backing of the army.

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See also
President calls on prime minister to resign
Ramos-Horta loses E Timor presidential election, Guterres and Ruak in runoff
Pope stands by Church in East Timor, appeals for peace
Coalition government for East Timor
Presidential elections: some candidates complain of irregularities as the country prepares for a two


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