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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 June 2006, 10:10 GMT 11:10 UK
Fears over E Timor rival rallies
Alkatiri supporter, 27th June
Supporters of Alkatiri are angry that he felt he had to resign
Supporters of East Timor's former PM Mari Alkatiri, forced to resign on Monday, have rallied in the capital Dili, sparking fears of clashes.

Thousands travelled into the city to show their support for Mr Alkariti's ruling Fretilin party.

Foreign peacekeepers escorted the group amid tight security, after checking all participants for weapons.

It was unclear if they could be kept apart from anti-Alkatiri protesters, still thought to be in the capital.

On Wednesday there were sporadic attacks across Dili, with international peacekeepers trying to separate the rival factions.

More than 20 houses were torched, and youths threw stones at a refugee camp.

President Xanana Gusmao said in a statement on Thursday that early elections were needed to solve the political paralysis in East Timor.

"I am conscious that the current crisis can only be completely overcome through free elections to be held as soon as possible," he said.

East-west divide

Chanting "Viva Alkatiri", the Fretilin supporters travelled to Dili in a convoy of packed trucks, buses, cars and motorbikes, escorted by Australian peacekeepers.

Fretilin spokesman Jose Reis told the French news agency AFP that "thousands" of people were joining the march, although exact numbers were difficult to assess.

Australian solider goes past a burning building in Dili
Some homes were torched in Dili on Wednesday
He said they planned to drive around the city and hand a letter to President Gusmao asking him to respect Fretilin.

"We want to prove to the world that Fretilin has the majority [in parliament], and to demand that President Xanana Gusmao respect the constitution in resolving this crisis," said another rally organiser, Filomeno Aleixo.

Since Mr Alkatiri's resignation, under intense pressure from both inside and outside East Timor, Mr Gusmao has been holding discussions about who will replace him as the country's next prime minister.

Fretilin, which holds 55 of parliament's 88 seats, has the constitutional right to nominate the next premier. Fretilin supporters are anxious that this right is upheld.

The pro and anti-Fretilin groups are symbols of a deeper division - that between east and west of the country.

Western Timorese are often seen as having had more links with Jakarta during the period of Indonesian occupation. Easterners claim they played the major part in the 1999 uprising which ended Jakarta's rule.

Protesters rally in Dili in East Timor

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