Archive for Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Leader quits, raising hopes for violence’s end

June 27, 2006

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— East Timor's prime minister bowed to mounting pressure and resigned Monday, setting off raucous celebrations and raising hopes for an end to months of political paralysis and violence in Asia's newest nation.

Mari Alkatiri, who is battling allegations that he formed a hit squad to silence opponents, offered to help form an interim government until elections next year, and the ruling Fretilin party put forward four names as possible successors.

"I am ready to resign," Alkatiri said on the porch of his home in Dili, saying he wanted to share responsibility for the crisis and to head off the resignation of President Xanana Gusmao, who threatened to step down if the prime minister did not.

Gusmao, who is revered for leading the armed resistance to Indonesian rule, accepted the resignation effective immediately and said deliberations would begin Tuesday on building a new government.

As news of Alkatiri's decision spread, thousands of people drove through the main streets of the capital, banging drums and cans.

Many Timorese say Alkatiri's dismissal of 600 disgruntled soldiers in March was to blame for street battles and gang warfare that killed at least 30 people and forced nearly 150,000 others to flee their homes.

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