Subject: LUSA: As violence re-ignites, Gusmão says crisis solut ion needs elections

28-06-2006 18:13:00. Fonte LUSA. Notícia SIR-8124578 Temas:

East Timor: As violence re-ignites, Gusmão says crisis solution needs elections

Dili, June 28 (Lusa) - Violence flared anew in the East Timorese capital Wednesday, despite the presence of international peacekeepers, and President Xanana Gusmão said the months-long crisis could only be "completely overcome" through elections.

The president said, in a communiqué issued after overnight arson attacks and stone-throwing clashes between supporters and opponents of outgoing Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri, that he was holding talks for the formation of a new government with the "greatest urgency".

Gusmão added, however, that he was aware that the "current crisis", which has left at least 37 dead and almost 150,000 people displaced, would "only be completely overcome through free elections held as soon as possible".

An official source told Lusa early elections could be held as soon as November if the president's efforts to broker the formation of a new government failed.

Regularly scheduled elections are slated for early next year.

The source, asking to remain unidentified, added that Gusmão would continue talks with dominant FRETILIN and other party leaders Thursday.

As several thousand anti-FRETILIN government demonstrators left Dili Wednesday, obeying a presidential order, FRETILIN sources told Lusa their party had mobilized some 30,000 supporters outside the capital to enter Dili Thursday, one day before Alkatiri was scheduled to be questioned by authorities on allegations he organized a hit team to kill opponents.

Alkatiri, who resigned Monday as demanded by the president, traveled to Dili's outskirts Tuesday to dissuade some 10,000 supporters from immediate entry into to Dili to avoid renewed clashes with opponents celebrating his ouster and calling for early elections.

The country's national RTTL television said Wednesday it was suspending broadcasts until it got protection from international peacekeeping forces, mostly Australian troops, but also including Portuguese police.

RTTL's headquarters in Dili were stoned and invaded by angry youths Tuesday night after the station broadcast images and comments from Alkatiri to his supporters at Hera, outside the capital.

That TV report appeared to have sparked other overnight violence in the city, with rival bands of youths fighting stone- throwing battles and more than a score of houses and shops, some belonging to FRETILIN or ruling party officials, being torched.

Opponents and supporters of Alkatiri clashed at a refugee camp near the Dili waterfront, with anti-Alkatiri protestors lobbing rocks at their rivals inside the camp.

The four-nation peacekeeping force detained 13 people and stepped up patrols in the city overnight, fearing further political and communal unrest.

Seven of those arrested in the worst violence to hit Dili for several weeks were detained by Portugal`s GNR paramilitary police contingent.

Several thousand people who had staged a week of protests in the capital against Alkatiri and in support of Gusmão began leaving the city mid-Wednesday afternoon after being informed of the president's request they leave to reduce tensions.

A protest leader, dissident army Maj. Alves Tara, however, said his anti-FRETILIN demonstrators would come back in 30 days if the FRETILIN-dominated parliament was not dissolved and early elections called.

The outgoing prime minister has been summoned by Attorney General Longuinhos Monteiro for questioning Friday on allegations he was involved in organizing a political hit team, charges Alkatiri has vehemently denied.

The allegations led to the house arrest to await trial last week of Alkatiri stalwart and former Interior Minister Rogério Lobato, who confessed to investigators, a judicial source told Lusa.

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.

SAS/CJB/EL.

Lusa

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