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UN Recommends Investigation of Former East Timor PM

A U.N. report looking into the violence that gripped East Timor last April and May largely lays the blame for the unrest on the country's former prime minister and his government.

The U.N. report says former East Timor Prime Minister Mari Alkitiri failed to prevent weapons from falling into the hands of civilians and he should be the subject of a criminal investigation.

Alkitiri has been accused of authorizing the distribution of weapons to a civilian hit squad to kill his opponents, a charge he vehemently denies.

One of three commissioners compiling the report, Ralph Zacklin, says he thinks Alkitiri knew more about the illegal weapons distribution than he was willing to tell.

"We think that he probably knew more than he was telling us about what he knew about the irregular distribution of weapons," Zacklin says. "And in any event, the fact that there were weapons being distributed to civilians in an irregular fashion by the police and by the army is something that clearly as Prime Minister, he should have known about."

Alkitiri stepped down as prime minister in June after repeated calls for his resignation, saying he was resigning for the good of the nation.

The U.N. report also states Alkitiris interior minister, Rogerio Lobato, his minister of defense, Roque Rodrigues, and the chief of the defense force, Taur Matan Ruak, unlawfully armed civilians and should be held accountable for the illegal transfer of weapons.

East Timor plunged into chaos in April and May after Alkitiri fired 600 soldiers, a move that split the armed forces and led to pitched street battles in the capital, Dili, that left more than 30 people dead and 150,000 fleeing their homes to makeshift refugee centers.

The violence only subsided after international peacekeepers were brought to the country to restore order.

The report also criticized President Xanana Gusmao for visiting Major Alfredo Reinado, a member of the military police who had defected with some other men at the height of the violence.

Zacklin, one of the authors of the report, says while Mr. Gusmao should have used more restraint, they were satisfied he used the meeting to try to stop Reinado from instigating further violence.

"There is evidence that president Gusmao had met with Major Reinado after his defection, but what we concluded is that he was doing this in order to try to contain and restrain major Reinado, not in order to give him instructions to attack anybody," Zacklin says.

East Timor Prime Minister Jose Ramos Horta, who replaced Alkitiri, urged U.N. forces to stay in the country until after the May 2007 elections.