June 25, 2006

East Timor PM Alkatiri resigns

By David Fox

DILI (Reuters) - East Timor's embattled prime minister,
Mari Alkatiri, resigned on Monday, saying he would take a share
of responsibility for a political crisis that has gripped the
world's newest democratic nation for over two months.

There was no immediate word on a replacement, but the news
was welcomed by thousands of protesters who have been
demonstrating in the capital for the past week, and they
cheered and car horns blared as word of his resignation spread.

Alkatiri said he was stepping down in order to avoid the
resignation of the nation's widely popular president, Xanana
Gusmao, who had threatened to quit himself unless the prime
minister left office.

"I am ready to resign from my position of prime minister of
the government of RTL (East Timor) so as to avoid the
resignation of his excellency the president of the republic,"
Alkatiri told a news conference.

He said he was doing so "having deeply reflected on the
present situation prevailing in the country ... assuming my own
share of responsibility for the crisis affecting our country
... (and) determined not to contribute to any deepening of the

He read only from a statement and refused to answer

Alkatiri has been widely blamed for violence which erupted
in late May after fighting within the armed forces spiralled
into rioting, arson and looting in the streets of the capital,

Alkatiri's resignation has been the rallying cry during
protests by thousands of Timorese that peaked in the past five
days after damaging revelations in an Australian news
documentary linked him to a plot to arm a civilian militia.

East Timor was a Portuguese colony for centuries before a
revolution in Lisbon in 1975 gave the territory a brief taste
of independence. Indonesian troops invaded a few days later and
Jakarta annexed East Timor in 1976.

After a 1999 vote for independence marked by violence
blamed largely on pro-Jakarta militia with ties to the
Indonesian army, an international peacekeeping force moved into
the territory, ushering in a transitional period of U.N.
administration before East Timor became a fully fledged nation
in 2002.