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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 June 2006, 06:41 GMT 07:41 UK
E Timor talks seek to end unrest
Youths in Dili, East Timor
Gangs have been clashing on the streets of the capital
East Timor's defence minister has held talks with rebel leaders in a bid to end unrest which has seen thousands of people fleeing the capital, Dili.

Jose Ramos Horta met rebel soldiers to discuss the crisis, which was sparked after they were sacked by the Prime Minister, Mari Alkatiri.

A UN envoy said East Timor now expected the agency to play a greater role.

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

Protesters have been demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri, whom they blame for sacking 600 striking soldiers in March.

After the dismissals, the violence spread to different factions of the security forces and led to gang violence in Dili, in the worst disorder since the state's fight for independence from Indonesia in 1999.

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

'Act together'

Mr Ramos Horta met rebel representatives - including their self-styled leader Major Alfredo Reinaldo - in the presence of UN observers.

"The minister left the meetings with a clear understanding of their intention to be involved in an all-inclusive dialogue to settle the political differences," his office said in a statement reported by the AFP agency.

The statement came as UN envoy Ian Martin told reporters the international community was working hard to restore security in East Timor.

"This is not a time for despair, it's a time for people to act together," he said at the end of a fact-finding mission.

Hear from those involved in the talks


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