The Jakarta Post, 6/6/2006 10:35:43 AM
Arson, looting continue in East Timor's capital
DILI (AP): Mobs looted sacks of seeds from a warehouse and set buildings on fire in
East Timor's capital Tuesday as Australian peacekeepers blocked a major road
following reports that protesters and gangs were trying to infiltrate the city.
The unrest was less severe than the fighting between military factions and gang
warfare that erupted last month, but underscored the huge challenge for international
forces and East Timor's fractured government as they try to restore a sense
ofnormalcy to Dili.
Tens of thousands of fearful residents have fled their homes and are living in makeshift
camps and shelters in and around the city. UN agencies have delivered emergency
airlifts of food rations, cooking sets, tents and blankets.
The looting of a warehouse with agricultural supplies occurred near the city center,
and peacekeepers did not immediately intervene. In neighborhoods near the airport,
several plumes of smoke rose from buildings set on fire by gangs of young men.
Australian forces blocked traffic on the main road near the airport in one of their most
robust security checks in recent days. Reports have circulated that anti-government
demonstrators planned to hold a large rally in the capital, though a similar report last
week proved unfounded.
On Monday, East Timorese lawmakers met in Parliament to discuss the country's
turmoil and a top Cabinet minister met with rebel soldiers for reconciliation talks, as
the fragile government showed signs of reviving.
Foreign Minister and Nobel laureate Jose Ramos Horta visited several rebel
commanders whose dismissal in March helped trigger the crisis.
"They had a good talk," ministry spokesman Chris Santos said. He gave no details,
citing the sensitivity of the situation.
Parliament's session was its first since fighting surged last month in Dili, although
lawmakers said some colleagues did not attend because they feared for their safety
or lacked transport.
Fifty legislators turned up, enough for a quorum in the 88-seat house.
Elections are scheduled for next year, but some East Timorese blame Prime Minister
Mari Alkatiri for the turmoil and demand his ouster.
Alkatiri oversaw the dismissal in March of 600 striking soldiers, who clashed with
loyalist troops and fled to the hills. Rival gangs took to the streets in the absence of
Ramos Horta also became defense minister after an Alkatiri ally quit the post in an
effort to defuse the crisis. The rebels he met Monday did not include the most
prominent one, Alfredo Reinado, but Horta's office said the minister planned to visit
him in the next day or two.
The goal of the meeting was to explore "avenues for all-inclusive talks which will lead
to a lasting resolution of the political issues," the Defense Ministry said.
East Timor faces a difficult road as it tries to heal deep divisions in the government
and armed forces. (***)
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