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Former East Timor PM Questioned About Hit Squads


The former East Timor prime minister, Mari Alkatiri, has been summoned by prosecutors for questioning over allegations he formed a hit squad to silence his political opponents. Meanwhile the country's leaders are meeting to choose Mr. Alkatiri's successor.

Mr. Alkatiri, who resigned Monday, was summoned to appear later this week at the prosecutor-general's office for questioning about allegations he formed a hit squad to kill his political opponents, a charge he denies.

The former interior minister and close associate of Mr. Alkatiri, Rogerio Lobato, is also facing charges of allegedly arming civilians at the prime minister's request.

The minister of agriculture and spokesman for the ruling Fretilin Party, Stanislau da Silva, says anyone implicated in the alleged plot should be tried.

"Fretilin will follow very close with the investigation. And then, whoever is implicated in this should be put before the court ... should be tried according to the existing law," Da Silva said.

The investigation is being carried out with the help of U.N.-funded prosecutors.

Many East Timorese blame Mr. Alkitiri for the violence that swept the tiny nation following his dismissal of 600 disgruntled soldiers in March.

The firings led to fighting within the military, which escalated last month into anarchy on the streets of the capital, Dili. Armed gangs fought pitched street battles, burning buildings and looting shops.

Order was restored after a 2500 member Australian-led peacekeeping force landed in the country at the request of the government.

On Tuesday, the popular president, Xanana Gusmao, was meeting with the Council of State, an advisory board of 12 ministers, to decide who the next prime minister will be.

Oppositon leader Angela Freitas, says her Labor Party and the Fretilin Party can work together to resolve the political crisis.

"Fretilin is open to negotiation and dialogue with everyone, so we hope through the dialogue we can find a peaceful, long-lasting resolution for the country," Freitas said.

The current crisis is the worst to hit the nation since it voted overwhelmingly in 1999 for independence from Indonesia, which ruled the territory for 24 years.

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