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Power strife in E. Timor

P. S. Suryanarayana

SINGAPORE: In a clear hint of power struggle in East Timor, the tiny state's President Xanana Gusmao on Thursday threatened to quit if Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri persisted in refusing to accept responsibility for the security and humanitarian crisis. Popular among the masses, Mr. Gusmao said, in a televised address, he would on Friday inform Parliament of his own offer to resign in the face of the Prime Minister's intransigence. According to independent observers who monitored the address, Mr. Gusmao wanted the ruling party, Fretilin, to replace Mr. Alkatiri who no longer commanded any legitimacy. But Mr. Alkatiri dug in his heels, maintaining that Fretilin had now rallied behind him. Fretilin is the political wing of the guerilla movement that Gusmao had successfully led to gain independence from Indonesia a few years ago. The crisis is widely traced to Mr. Alkatiri's act of dismissing about 600 "rebel soldiers" from the 1,400-strong military last March.

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