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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 June 2006, 09:35 GMT 10:35 UK
Protest rally against E Timor PM
Convoy of East Timorese protesters heading for Dili
Protesters want PM Alkatiri to resign
About 2,000 anti-government protesters have converged on the East Timorese capital, Dili.

They are demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri, whom they blame for sacking hundreds of striking soldiers in March.

The protests came amid further unrest and looting, which has prompted tens of thousands of residents to flee.

International peacekeepers are struggling to control the violence, which has left at least 20 people dead.

TENSIONS MOUNT
Feb: More than 400 troops strike over pay and conditions
March: Government sacks nearly 600 of 1,400-man army
April: Rioting by sacked troops leaves five people dead
May: Violence intensifies, with battles between gangs from east and west of the country
24 May: Government asks foreign troops to take control

The protesters came to Dili on motorcycles, trucks and buses from western districts of East Timor.

Foreign peacekeepers searched their vehicles and, after negotiations, allowed them into Dili, but under the escort of heavily armed troops.

The demonstrators shouted "Down with Alkatiri!" as they punched the air and waved anti-government banners and flags.

After the rally reached the government offices, its leader Augusto Araujo Taro met President Xanana Gusmao to explain the demonstrators' demands.

Mr Gusmao made an emotional appeal to the crowd, before asking them to return home "because there are many problems that have to be solved".

Embattled PM

Mr Alkatiri has refused to step down, despite being widely criticised for not doing enough to end the recent unrest.

He sees the unrest as a political plot by his opponents to bring down his government, says the BBC's Phil Mercer in Sydney.

After the soldiers' sacking in March, the violence spread to different factions of the security forces and also led to gang violence in Dili.

The disorder is the worst East Timor has seen since its bloody fight for independence from Indonesia in 1999, our correspondent says.




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