East Timor’s embattled prime minister has stepped down. “I am ready to resign from my position of prime minister of the government of East Timor so as to avoid the resignation of his Excellency the president of the republic,” said Mari Alkatiri. He added that he was taking his share of responsibility for the country’s crisis which came to a head last month when fighting within the armed forces spiralled into riots, arson and looting in the capital Dili.
President Xanana Gusmao had threatened to resign unless Alkatiri quit. Calls for the prime minister to go have been the focal point of protests by thousands of Timorese. Demonstrations peaked in the last few days after a news documentary implicated him in a plot to arm a civilian militia. Critics say Alkatiri dragged his feet over a dispute about soldiers’ pay, and that that sparked the recent troubles. Alkatiri’s decision prompted two ministers to step down as well, including Nobel peace prize winner Jose Ramos-Horta.