Subject: East Timor: FM Horta meets alleged govt 'death squad' in new disarmament move

19-06-2006 11:07:00. Fonte LUSA. Notícia SIR-8094482 Temas:

East Timor: FM Horta meets alleged govt 'death squad' in new disarmament move

Leutala, East Timor, June 19 (Lusa) - Foreign and Defense Minister José Ramos Horta, pushing for the disarmament of rival factions in East Timor, held talks Monday with the leader of a self- styled government "death squad".

After his meeting with apparently repentant hit-squad commander, Vicente da Conceição Railos, Ramos Horta told journalists it was "hard to believe" the group's claim it had been armed and ordered to kill opponents by Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri but that the allegations appeared to be "serious".

Alkatiri has denied the allegations, first made last week by Railos to Australian jounalists, saying it was aimed to "demonize" him and topple his government.

"I find it hard to believe it's true, but this group appears to be real, serious and to feel defrauded", Ramos Horta told Lusa in the village of Leutala, 50 kilometers west of Dili, where he met Railos.

"They considered the orders (to eliminate government opponents) unjust, incorrect and for that reason refused to carry out the orders and to talk", he added.

Ramos Horta said Railos group of between 30 and 35 men, about half armed with assault rifles, appeared ready to disarm, but only directly to President Xanana Gusmão and after getting assurances of protection and that Alkatiri would be investigated and tried.

He said there were "many well-armed groups" in the country that need to be disarmed.

The foreign and defense minister said Sunday, in announcing he planned to meet with Railos, that his priority was to disarm the group and other dissident factions, an initiative that would be followed by UN-backed investigations into the country's recent wave of violence and who was behind the arming of civilians.

"The important thing is to try to recover these weapons and then, the next step, to discover who supplied the weapons", he said.

Last Friday, serving as an intermediary for the president, Ramos Horta arranged the hand over of weapons to Australian peackeepers from a group of dissident soldiers and police that carried out hit- and-run attacks against military targets around Dili last month.

UN prosecutors, aiding Dili's Attorney General's office, began investigations at the weekend into the wave of violence that first erupted in the East Timorese capital in late April.

The weeks of clashes, first between rival security force factions and then between communal gangs, left at least 37 dead and displaced most of Dili's population of 130,000 people from their homes, according to UN officials.

At Dili's request, a 2,000-strong, mostly Australian force from four countries, including Portugal, has largely restored order to the capital since it began deployment May 25.



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