Thursday, March 01, 2007

Trapped Reinado calls for Govt talks

Trapped Reinado calls for Govt talks

The fugitive East Timor rebel leader, Major Alfredo Reinado, who is surrounded in his hideaway by Australian-led troops, has called for talks with the Government.

Major Reinado, who has been criticised over the deadly street violence that killed dozens last year, made the call for negotiations a day after vowing to fight to the death.

Major Reinado told Indonesian radio he had been proposing talks with the Government for months before the latest stand-off, which escalated when the international troops circled closer to his compound on Wednesday.

"In my opinion there's no other way of settling the problem -- a military approach will not solve it," he said.

Major Reinado and his men are holed up in Same, 50 kilometres south of the capital Dili, under the eye of UN-mandated international troops equipped with tanks and helicopters.

"I hope they don't cross the lines -- if they do so, I'll act," he told the radio.

President Xanana Gusmao has given the international force the green light to capture Major Reinado after accusing him of raiding police posts and stealing weapons.

Australian General Mal Rerden, the head of the international troops, said the fugitive soldier should give up.

"There is no negotiation," Brigadier Rerden said. On Thursday he reportedly met with Mr Gusmao and Prime Minister Jose Ramos-Horta to discuss the stand-off.

"If he cares about the people of Timor-Leste, if he cares about the people with him now, he would give up his weapons and surrender," Brigadier Rerden said.

"Anything that happens from now on is his responsibility."

Timorese lawmaker Leandro Isaac, who is holed up with the rebel leader, told AFP by telephone that Major Reinado had sent a direct message to Mr Gusmao's staff asking for talks but said he would be unlikely to give up.

"For him there is only one option: it is better to die than surrender," Mr Isaac said.

Australian Defence Minister Brendan Nelson said troops would use "appropriate force" if they agreed to capture Major Reinado.

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has urged the renegade to surrender.


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