Subject: AFP: Timor rebel leader urges talks

Timor rebel leader urges talks

From correspondents in Dili

November 26, 2006 08:05pm

Agence France-Presse

EAST Timor's military commander has called for dialogue with rebel leader Major Alfredo Reinado, who is on the run for murder and illegal arms possession.

Reinado also reiterated his call for dialogue while addressing a seminar but was not arrested by international peacekeepers who were also present, a witness said.

Prime Minister Jose Ramos-Horta said today Reinhado was not arrested because the military commander had called for a dialogue.

"Because there was a wish from Brigadier General Taur Matan Ruak for a dialogue with him, so that he can return to base and surrender, the Government is giving him another chance," Ramos-Horta told reporters in Dili.

He said such a dialogue was aimed at getting Reinhado to surrender and "contribute to justice."

"But he should not think he is the most important person at the present, there are many more matters which need to be addressed besides talking with him," the Prime Minister said.

Ramos-Horta, who on Friday urged peacekeepers to arrest Reinhado, did not elaborate.

Meanwhile, the renegade officer called for dialogue yesterday in the town of Suai while addressing a seminar at which Australian and Portuguese soldiers were present, a witness said today.

"I make this appearance because there was a wish from the Government for a dialogue, but there was not a single (government) leader who came," Reinhado was quoted by journalist Jeferino Bobo as saying in Suai, some 175 kilometres south of Dili.

Although dressed in civilian clothes, Reinhado was escorted by two armed personal guards while one Portuguese and two Australian soldiers present made no move to arrest him.

He is believed to be hiding at a secret base near Suai with some 10 other followers.

Dili has called on Reinhado, whom they have accused of murder, to surrender to Australian peacekeepers.

He was arrested in August on charges of weapons possession despite promises from his group that they had surrendered all their arms to Australian peacekeepers deployed following unrest blamed on the major.

Shortly afterwards he escaped from his Dili jail along with more than 50 other inmates.

In May, Reinado led a group of deserting troops and was accused of sparking civil unrest that killed 21 people.

The violence prompted the deployment of an Australian-led international peacekeeping force.

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