Subject: ABC: Alkatiri denies arming own security force

Also Parliament chief says Timor PM will not be removed

ABC

Thursday, June 8, 2006. 8:10pm (AEST)

Alkatiri denies arming own security force

East Timor's Prime Minister, Mari Alkatiri, has denied allegations he recruited a secret security team tasked with killing his political opponents.

The allegations were made to ABC TV's Four Corners program in Dili.

At a late-night meeting a group of 30 men told the ABC they were recruited by East Timor's former interior minister Rogerio Lobarto on behalf of Dr Alkatiri.

They say they have instructions to harass and even kill Dr Alkatiri's political opponents in the lead-up to next year's elections.

One of the group's leaders, Commander Raylos, claims they have been given 18 assault rifles and 6,000 rounds of ammunition.

They have also received vehicles and uniforms.

Commander Raylos says the opponents include 600 soldiers sacked earlier this year from East Timor's Army and even renegade members of the Prime Minister's own party, Fretilin.

Dr Alkatiri denies any such team exists, saying it is just another rumour designed to demonise him.

Australia's Foreign Affairs Minister, Alexander Downer, says the allegations against Dr Alkatiri are just claims.

"It would be completely unacceptable for the East Timorese or any other Prime Minister to try to act in a way which is illegal and outside of the confines of the Constitution," Mr Downer said.

"If there was evidence, not somebody making a claim, but if there was evidence to that effect then the law enforcement authorities should deal with it."

Resignation rejected

Dr Alkatiri has also rejected calls for his resignation from rebel soldiers and protesters.

"I will never step down," he said.

East Timor's Parliament has thrown its support behind the embattled leader.

"The Parliament will not make any decision that will oust the prime minister," Parliament chief Francisco Guterres said.

"The Prime Minister was elected by the majority party, Fretilin.

"Even if the President agrees to the removal of the Prime Minister, he must coordinate with the Parliament.

"There has been no such decision up until now."

The world's youngest nation was plunged into violence in May after Dr Alkatiri sacked 600 of the 1,400-strong Army for mutiny when they protested about alleged discrimination against soldiers from the west of the country.

Rebel troops and thousands of protesters have called for Dr Alkatiri's removal, blaming him for the violence that has seen youth gangs fighting, looting and burning buildings in Dili.

Around 20 people have been killed and an estimated 100,000 people displaced.

A 2,500-strong international peacekeeping force led by Australian troops now patrols Dili.

But fighting today has spread outside the Dili for the first time since the current unrest began.

Fretilin staff say the party's office at Ermera, south-west of Dili, has been set on fire and the home of a senior official has been attacked.

At Same, further south, threats have been made to party officials.

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Parliament chief says Timor PM will not be removed

08/06/2006 10:41

By Lirio da Fonseca

DILI (Reuters) - East Timor's parliament threw its support behind embattled Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri on Thursday, standing up to troops and protesters calling for his removal over violence that has gripped the capital, Dili.

"The parliament will not make any decision that will oust the prime minister," parliament chief Francisco Guterres said.

"The prime minister was elected by the majority party, Fretilin," he told reporters. "Even if the president agrees to the removal of the prime minister, he must coordinate with the parliament. There has been no such decision up until now."

The world's youngest nation was plunged into violence in May after Alkatiri sacked 600 of the 1,400-strong army for mutiny when they protested about alleged discrimination against soldiers from the west of the country.

Rebel troops and thousands of protesters have called for Alkatiri's removal, blaming him for the violence that has seen youth gangs fighting, looting and burning buildings in Dili.

Around 20 people have been killed and an estimated 100,000 people displaced. Trucks carrying more people into camps arrived in Dili on Thursday.

A 2,500-strong international peacekeeping force led by Australian troops now patrols Dili. The capital was calm on Thursday with peacekeepers checking vehicles as they arrived.

"We are searching vehicles for weapons, mostly slingshots and darts. We have found machetes and a couple of spears and some hand-held dull weapons such as sticks," Australian commander Brigadier Mick Slater told a news conference in Dili.

But there were reports that violence had spread to another town -- Gleno, about 30 km (18 miles) southwest of Dili. "We will not sit back here and let the violence spread beyond Dili," said Slater, adding Dili was still not under control.

"The sporadic and occasional outbreaks of violence are becoming fewer and fewer. The amount of fires in town are down to just a couple a day. But I don't think for a minute that we have got this licked. There will be bad days ahead of us, I am sure."

A U.N.-backed police force must be sent to East Timor for at least two years to restore law and order after the collapse of the local police, Foreign Minister Jose Ramos-Horta told Australian television on Thursday.

DISPLACED AT RISK

U.N. special envoy Ian Martin was heading for New York to brief Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the East Timor crisis.

He has not disclosed whether he will recommend a U.N.-backed police force be sent to the former Indonesian territory, though he told reporters before leaving that the United Nations was likely to take a larger role there.

Australia plans to double its commitment of police in East Timor to 200 and has called on the country to change its laws so foreign police can operate effectively.

Catholic aid agency Caritas Australia said the death toll from the violence may be higher than realised.

"The deaths that we do wonder about that haven't been recorded and are rumoured are the ones ... around the mountains around Dili," said Caritas Chief Executive Jack de Groot.

Most of those killed are thought to have belonged to rival police and army factions, but recent unrest has largely pitted gangs of youths allied to those factions and feuding groups from the east and west of the nation.

The U.N.'s representative said on Wednesday that Alkatiri had agreed to an international investigation into the violence.

Australia led a U.N.-mandated intervention force into East Timor in 1999 after violence by pro-Jakarta militias flared following a vote by Timorese for independence from Indonesia.

East Timor was granted independence in 2002 after almost three years of U.N. administration.

(Additional reporting by Paul Tait in Sydney)


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