June 25, 2006

East Timor PM Alkatiri to resign: Official

By David Fox

DILI (Reuters) - East Timor's embattled prime minister,
Mari Alkatiri, was expected to resign on Monday, the country's
foreign minister told a news briefing.

Jose Ramos-Horta interrupted a briefing to explain his own
resignation a day earlier to say "it had been overtaken by

He advised the assembled media to go to Alkatiri's
residence. Asked if the prime minister was going to resign he
nodded his head, shrugged and said: "it looks like."

Nobel Peace laureate Ramos-Horta, foreign minister since
East Timor gained independence from Indonesia in 2002, quit on
Sunday. An aide said the resignation came after Alkatiri's
Fretilin party decided to continue backing the prime minister.

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

An aide had said Ramos-Horta -- who is not a Fretilin
member -- resigned in protest at the party's decision.

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

The revelations prompted the tiny nation's popular
president, Xanana Gusmao, to threaten to quit. While he later
pulled back, diplomats said bad blood between him and Alkatiri
was now out in the open.

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.