Monday, May 29, 2006

E Timor leaders in crisis talks

E Timor leaders in crisis talks
By Peter Cave and Anne Barker in Dili

East Timor's Government leaders are locked in talks, amid mounting calls for the Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri to resign.

The streets of the capital, Dili, have been relatively calm as more Australian soldiers patrol the streets.

Dr Alkatiri and President Xanana Gusmao have begun meeting with the country's Council Of State in Dili to try to find a way out of the country's political and security crisis.

The Council of State, consisting of community leaders, has the constitutional power to give authority to the President to dismiss the Prime Minister.

There has been growing pressure from President Gusmao's supporters and community groups, including church leaders, to recognise that the Government has failed, and to replace it with a government of national unity.

Several hundred people have gathered outside the palace with signs demanding Dr Alkatiri's resignation.


The level of violence by rampaging gangs in Dili has eased since last night, although looting is now a serious problem with shops closed and many people becoming desperate for food.

Australian troops are now more visible, with 50 separate patrols on the streets around the capital.

Forty-five Federal Police arrive today to help rein in any further violence.


The head of the United Nations mission in East Timor is playing down claims of a humanitarian crisis by some aid groups.

Sukehiro Hasegawa says things are not yet at that level.

"I believe that the humanitarian assistance we are going to provide - they can go through this difficulty," he said.

"I think it depends on how long law and order takes place to be secured.

"So at this stage I would not call it a humanitarian crisis of major proportions."


Three East Timorese police officers injured during the fighting in Dili are in a critical condition at the Royal Darwin Hospital.

The two men and a woman were evacuated to Darwin yesterday evening and are all suffering gunshot wounds.

The hospital says the men have been shot several times, while the woman has a single bullet wound to her stomach.

Six other evacuees are being treated at the hospital, including five more police officers. They are in a serious condition.

A sick 12-month-old baby who was also evacuated to Darwin is in a stable condition.

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