Subject: LUSA: Resignation a move to avoid 'institutional vacuum' - Alkatiri

29-06-2006 13:00:00. Fonte LUSA. Notícia SIR-8127068 Temas:

East Timor: Resignation a move to avoid 'institutional vacuum' - Alkatiri

Lisbon, June 29 (Lusa) - East Timor's outgoing premier, Mari Alkatiri, said in an interview published Thursday that he resigned to avoid an "institutional vacuum" and admitted the possibility his dominant FRETILIN party could elect a new leadership to ease solution of the political crisis.

Alkatiri told Portugal's weekly news magazine Visão he stepped down Monday because he learned President Xanana Gusmão had been ready to resign "at any moment" or dissolve the FRETILIN-controlled parliament to press his demand the prime minister move out.

"Either of these hypotheses would have been worse than my resignation", leaving an "institutional vacuum", Visão quotes Alkatiri as having said Tuesday in Dili.

Questioned on Gusmão's charge that his FRETILIN leadership team, elected by a controversial show-of-hands vote at a party congress last month, was "illegitimate", Alkatiri acknowledged a new secret- ballot vote could be held "if this helps resolve some problem".

"But one doesn't organize a (party) congress in a few days", he cautioned.

Alkatiri's only challenger at the May congress, Dili's ambassador to Washington and the United Nations, José Luís Guterres, withdrew when delegates decided to abandon past practice, as enshrined in Timorese law, and opted for a raised-hand leadership vote.

On the allegations he had organized a political hit team to kill opponents, Alkatiri, who has repeatedly denied the accusations, said he had a "tranquil conscience".

His scheduled Friday appearance before investigating magistrates, he told Visão Tuesday, could be postponed as he was then awaiting the arrival in Dili of a lawyer from abroad.

Alkatiri said he did not want to elaborate further "now" on his earlier assertions that the Timorese crisis had been orchestrated to topple him.

He also declined to specify if his charges that foreign interests were involved were directed at neighboring Australia, with whom Dili has been involved in tough negotiations over sharing oil and natural gas resources in the Timor Sea.

"I don't withdraw one comma" from earlier comments, "but I won't insist (on them) more now, not because I'm afraid", he said, adding the present was a "time to reflect on what's happened".

"Where there's oil, there are always problems", he stressed.

Alkatiri declined to name a preference within FRETILIN to replace him as head of government but said whoever was tapped would have his support.

He forecast his party would win new elections, whether the polls were held early, as demanded by his opponents, or as regularly scheduled early next year.

Alkatiri foresaw Portugal playing an "important role" in a future UN peacekeeping mission and in the diplomacy needed to gain Security Council approval for such action.



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