Subject: LUSA: Gusmão threatens early elections if new government not possible

27-06-2006 11:49:00. Fonte LUSA. Notícia SIR-8119902 Temas:

East Timor: Gusmão threatens early elections if new government not possible

Dili, June 27 (Lusa) - President Xanana Gusmão announced Tuesday he will begin "immediate" talks with feuding political leaders to form a new government for strife-torn East Timor, warning that he could dissolve parliament and call early elections if the initiative failed.

"If, despite everything, a new government is not possible, the President of the Republic will consider the possibility of dissolving parliament and anticipating general elections", said a communiqué issued by Gusmão's office hours after he met with his consultative Council of State.

The president also said he was extending for 30 days emergency measures declared on May 30.

The president's announcement came as thousands of supporters of outgoing Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri, who resigned Monday, threatened to enter the capital, sparking fears of clashes with anti- government demonstrators.

Alkatiri, whose resignation Gusmão demanded as a first step to solving the bloody, months-long crisis, and ruling FRETILIN party chairman Francisco Guterres went together to Hera, 10 kilometers east of Dili, and persuaded more than 10,000 supporters to postpone their threatened entry into the capital.

Hours before, Australian peacekeepers, backed by armored cars, cut the main eastern road into Dili to block a column of more than 200 trucks packed with pro-Alkatiri militants, as two Black Hawk helicopters hovered overhead.

Alkatiri and Guterres, the speaker of parliament, convinced their supporters to return to their initial concentration point, Metinaro, 30 kms to the east, telling them to wait "a day or two" before entering Dili to avoid new confrontations.

A spokesman for the pro-government demonstrators in Hera told Lusa they wanted to deliver a petition to the president to rescind Alkatiri's resignation and demand that "Timorese leaders get together to resolve the crisis".

Gusmão has justified his ultimatum for Alkatiri to resign, in part, on allegations he had set up a hit team to eliminate opponents, charges vehemently denied by the outgoing prime minister.

Gusmão called the Council of State meeting, which under the constitution must be heard before major decisions, such as the dissolution of parliament, without announcing an agenda for its discussions and without convening the prime minister to attend, as is the norm.

The ruling party, which holds 55 of parliament's 88 seats, has offered to name a replacement for Alkatiri ahead of regularly scheduled elections early next year.

However, thousands of anti-Alkatiri demonstrators, who have filled Dili's streets for six consecutive days, and six opposition parties demand the president name a caretaker cabinet, dissolve parliament and call early elections.

In a statement Tuesday, six parties, representing 20 of the legislature's lawmakers, again insisted on an early return to the polls and said they would not accept Alkatiri as a member of parliament until he was cleared of the alleged "death squad" affaire.

The outgoing prime minister was summoned Monday by Attorney General Longuinhos Monteiro for questioning Friday on the allegations that led to the house arrest of former Interior Minister Rogério Lobato, an Alkatiri stalwart, last week.

Alkatiri has repeatedly denied the allegations but said he would cooperate with the investigation.

The country's violent crisis emerged in February when some 600 soldiers, sacked from the army the following month, began protests over alleged regional discrimination in the 1,500-strong military.

A bloody army crackdown against the disgruntled soldiers in late April further split the military and police force, leading to clashes between rival security force factions in the capital and triggering weeks of communal gang arson and looting rampages.

The arrival of a four-nation, mainly Australian, peacekeeping force in late May quelled the violence that UN officials say killed 37 people and displaced nearly 150,000 from their homes.

Portugal, East Timor's former colonial ruler, contributed a 127-strong contingent of paramilitary GNR police.

SAS/EL.

Lusa

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