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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 July 2007, 06:07 GMT 07:07 UK
Australian PM in East Timor talks
Australian Prime Minister John Howard (file image)
Australia has sent peacekeepers and police to East Timor
Australian Prime Minister John Howard is in East Timor for talks with the country's leaders, amid political deadlock in the fledgling nation.

Mr Howard met Australian peacekeepers deployed in East Timor and will later meet President Jose Ramos-Horta.

The political process in the country has stalled since June's inconclusive general election.

Neither of the two main parties won a majority in the polls, and coalition talks have so far come to nothing.

Some analysts fear that continued political uncertainty could reignite tensions in the troubled nation.


Fretilin, led by former Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri, emerged as the single largest party after the 30 June elections, polling 29% of the vote.

Xanana Gusmao
Xanana Gusmao's party came second in the elections
The National Congress for the Reconstruction of East Timor, led by former President Xanana Gusmao, came second with 24%.

Mr Gusmao had agreed a deal with other parties that would give him a parliamentary majority, but his proposed coalition excluded Fretilin, which Fretilin found unacceptable.

The two sides have failed to agree a power-sharing deal and it now seems likely that Mr Ramos-Horta will have to decide which party should lead the government.

There have been sporadic outbreaks of violence. On Sunday, international troops used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse rioters in the capital, Dili.

Foreign peacekeepers have been in East Timor since May 2006, when a split between factions of the security forces led to violent clashes in which more than 30 people died.

The former Portuguese colony of East Timor broke away from 25 years of Indonesian rule in a 1999 referendum. It was placed under UN protection until it achieved independence in May 2002.

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