Subject: AFP: East Timor PM to resign if loses party leadership

Agence France Presse -- English

May 13, 2006 Saturday 11:23 AM GMT

East Timor PM to resign if loses party leadership

LISBON, May 13 2006

East Timor's Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri said Saturday he will resign if he loses the leadership of his Fretilin party at a congress later this month, according to an interview published here.

"If I lose the leadership on May 19, on the 20th I will present my resignation," he told weekly newspaper Expresso.

Asked if this would lead to early elections in the troubled former Portuguese colony he said: "That would depend on the new leadership, which would have to decide what to do, if it calls new elections or proposes a new name for the post."

Alkatiri is under pressure from within Fretilin to step down following last month's riots by sacked soldiers and their supporters in the East Timorese capital Dili which left at least five people dead.

He is facing a party leadership challenge from the country's ambassador to the United Nations, Jose Luis Guterres, who accuses the current leadership of East Timor of being out of touch with the people.

Fretilin captured 57.4 percent of the vote in elections held in 2001, two years after East Timor voted to break away from Indonesian rule. It has 55 seats in the 88-seat assembly.

East Timor, Asia's poorest nation, is scheduled to hold presidential and parliamentary elections in 2007.

Fretilin began as a resistance movement which fought for East Timor's independence from Jakarta but is now one of several parties in the nation's multi-party system.

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