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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 June 2006, 11:06 GMT 12:06 UK
E Timor president tells PM to go
President Xanana Gusmao, seen here talking to protesters in Dili on 6 June 2006
Mr Gusmao says he can no longer trust his prime minister
East Timor's President Xanana Gusmao has added his voice to growing calls for embattled Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri to resign.

In a letter sent on Tuesday, Mr Gusmao asked Mr Alkatiri to step down or face being sacked.

The BBC's Jonathan Head says Mr Alkatiri is expected to announce his decision on Thursday.

Mr Alkatiri has faced mounting criticism for failing to control a wave of recent violence.

At least 21 people have been killed since unrest erupted, after he sacked 600 soldiers who were striking over pay and conditions, triggering clashes within different factions of the security forces and ethnic violence.

In the letter, which the Lusa news agency said it had seen, Mr Gusmao said that he had lost confidence in the prime minister after viewing an Australian documentary alleging Mr Alkatiri supplied weapons to civilians, apparently to intimidate his opponents.

Lawmakers

A spokesman at the prime minister's office told the BBC that Mr. Alkatiri did receive a letter from the president asking him to resign, and that he would make a decision over the next 24 hours.

Under the constitution the president has very limited powers to dismiss the prime minister, but opposition to Mr Alkatiri now appears to include members of his own party, Fretilin.

A Fretilin lawmaker, Vincente Maubucy Ximenes, said that a majority of ruling party lawmakers were demanding the prime minister's resignation.

A protester outside the presidential palace on 21 June 2006
Many blame Mr Alkatiri for not controlling the violence

"We asked the president to suspend him as prime minister and form a government of transition while waiting for next year's election," Mr Ximenes told the Associated Press news agency.

Mr Alkatiri has also been damaged by accusations in the Australian documentary that the former interior minister, Rogerio Lobato, recruited and armed a group of fighters on his behalf to act against his political opponents.

Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri, seen here at a party meeting on 4 June
Mr Alkatiri has denied the allegations against him

Mr Lobato is now under virtual house arrest after prosecutors issued a warrant for his arrest on Tuesday.

Mr Alkatiri has repeatedly denied the allegations and prosecutors said on Wednesday there was no evidence linking him to the case.

Mari Alkatiri is a veteran of East Timor's independence movement, who spent the 24 years of Indonesian occupation in exile in Mozambique.

He is credited with skilfully negotiating with Australia over East Timor's rights to oilfields in the Timor Sea, but viewed by many Timorese as a cold and arrogant politician, our correspondent says.




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