Subject: East Timor fires 500 soldiers

Also: AP: Hundreds of striking East Timor troops dismissed

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East Timor fires 500 soldiers

From correspondents in Dili

16mar06

EAST Timor's military commander today said he had fired about 500 soldiers, or about a third of the country's regular armed forces, for deserting last month.

"As of March 1, the soldiers have been declared civilians. The door has been closed for them," Brigadier General Taur Matan Ruak said.

About 500 East Timorese soldiers deserted last month in protest against alleged discrimination and over-zealous surveillance.

The fledgling East Timorese army has about 1500 regular soldiers and 1500 reservists.

"We don't mind being fired as long as our complaints are being addressed. But our dismissal is not the best way to solve the problems," one of the officers, Lieutenant Gastao Salvinha, told reporters.

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Hundreds of striking East Timor troops dismissed

DILI (AP): East Timor dismissed nearly 600 of its 1,400-strong army after the soldiers staged a monthlong protest over poor conditions and selective promotions, the military chief said Thursday.

"They are officially fired," Brig. Gen. Taur Matan Ruak said of 593 troops who walked out of their barracks on Feb. 8 demanding that the government address their complaints.

East Timor's defense force was formed six years ago, when the United Nations took over control of the nascent country following an independence referendum that ended Indonesia, 24-year occupation. (**)


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