Subject: East Timor PM Threatens (Again) To Arrest Anti-govt Protesters

East Timor PM Threatens To Arrest Anti-govt Protesters

DILI, East Timor (AFP)--East Timorese Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao threatened Monday to arrest protesters who respond to opposition calls for a mass antigovernment rally, amid concerns for the country's stability.

"We will arrest those involved in any protests for the sake of the nation's security," he said when asked about the rally planned by opposition party Fretilin.

"I don't care if people call me a dictator because our priority is stability and security for all citizens."

Opposition leader Mari Alkatiri, who claims the coalition government is unconstitutional, is threatening to stage a large protest to unseat Gusmao but so far no date has been set.

East Timor formally won independence from Indonesia on May 20, 2002 but its brief history has been marred by political unrest and infighting.

Unsigned pamphlets have also been circulating in the capital Dili threatening protests if an easterner is appointed the new police commander when the post becomes vacant in November.

Such claims of regional discrimination sparked a mass desertion by members of the armed forces, leading to fighting in 2006 between military, police factions and gangs in street violence that killed at least 37 people.

An Australian-led international peacekeeping force has been helping to secure the country in the wake of that violence.

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