Sun, Jul 02, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Soccer scores in East Timor as rivals set truce for match


Warring factions in East Timor agreed to a truce yesterday so soccer fans could get behind Portugal in their match against England.

Portugal was for 400 years the colonial power in the ravaged half-island, which became independent of Indonesia after 24 years of occupation in 2002. Portuguese is the national language.

Dozens have died and an estimated 150,000 been shunted into makeshift refugee camps by the looting and arson sprees of rival ethnic gangs. More than 2,000 Australian, Malaysian, New Zealand and Portuguese troops are in East Timor to curb the violence.

"Tonight we will all be together for Portugal," an East Timor army officer told Australia's AAP news agency in Dili.

He was speaking at the Metinaro barracks, where Australian troops will host local soccer fans. Others are expected to pack bars and cafes where the Portuguese troops will be watching the game.

"Everybody wants to be there to watch, but they cannot fit many in," one aide worker said. "There is no electricity in the camps for a television."

Meanwhile, outgoing foreign minister Jose Ramos-Horta will head the government until a new premier is appointed in coming days, sources said yesterday.

Discussions were continuing to appoint a successor to Mari Alkatiri, the former prime minister who quit last Monday after being blamed for stoking the civil unrest and factional fighting that left at least 21 people dead and forced nearly 150,000 people to flee their homes.

Ramos-Horta told diplomats he had Alkatiri's blessing to carry on the "coordinator" job until a successor has been appointed, according to the source.

Alkatiri's Fretilin party, which holds 55 of 88 parliamentary seats, has vigorously campaigned to name the next premier.

Senior party officials gathered yesterday to discuss names with minister for state Ana Pessoa -- Ramos-Horta's ex-wife -- and agriculture minister Estanislao Da Silva, who are front-runners for the top job.

In other developments, Fretilin yesterday called for a police probe into faked leaflets that showed Alkatiri under arrest and being marched off by a foreign soldier.

At a hastily convened press conference, Fretilin said the "irresponsible" photograph, which showed Alkatiri with his hands behind his back and a soldier's hand on his shoulder, was designed to destroy the prime minister's dignity.

Fretilin officials said the photograph was brought to their attention by Australian troops, who told them to publicly deny the claim.

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