E Timor party to vote on leader

Posted by: Magpie

E Timor party to vote on leader - 19 May 06 08:06

East Timor's governing party has opened a congress at which members will vote on the leadership, possibly bringing a change of prime minister.
Party leader and Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri has faced criticism over recent violence in the nation.

Five people were killed in clashes last month after the sacking of some 600 soldiers for going on strike.

Fretilin will vote on the leadership on Friday and began the gathering amid fears it would spark fresh unrest.

Coup claim

Mr Alkatiri has said he will resign if not re-elected as secretary-general at the annual three-day congress, the Associated Press reports.

Correspondents say Mr Alkatiri's main challenger is the East Timorese ambassador to the US, Jose Luis Guterres.

The prime minister has faced criticism for mishandling last month's unrest, in which buildings were destroyed and tens of thousands fled the capital, Dili, fearing further violence.

The soldiers went on strike in March to demand better working conditions and to protest against what they described as favouritism in promotions.

But Mr Alkatiri said the violence was aimed at provoking the fall of government.

Australia has said it would consider sending troops to East Timor if an official request were made.

The recent unrest has been the worst to hit East Timor for several years. It officially gained independence in 2002.