As unrest continues in East Timor a day of tough talking is said to have exposed differences between President Xanana Gusmao and senior members of his government. The former Portuguese colony has been in crisis since a rebellion by former soldiers broke out last month. There are reported to be deep divisions between Gusmao and Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri on how to respond to the situation.
It was Alkatiri’s decision to sack around 600 troops that sparked the uprising. The Red Cross says more than 40,000 people have been displaced by the fighting, and food and fuel supplies are running out. Some, taking matters into their own hands, raided a UN depot. Around 2,500 international peacekeepers, led by Australia, are now in place in the tiny Asian state.
Their first task is to restore order after a weekend in which gangs allied to the feuding factions went on the rampage in the capital Dili. Analysts say the government’s failure to deal with East Timor’s dire economic state – despite having received massive foreign aid state – has fuelled the crisis.