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Guns trickle in from East Timor rebel soldiers

Written by: Staff
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GLENO, East Timor, July 5 (Reuters) A group of rebel soldiers in East Timor surrendered their weapons to Australian peacekeepers today, part of a process aimed at restoring calm to Asia's newest nation.

The tiny Pacific country was thrown into chaos in May after almost 600 members of the 1,400-strong army were sacked, splitting the security forces and unleashing violence and looting that was only ended by the arrival of an Australian-led intervention force.

Major Augusto Araujo, head of the small group of rebel soldiers, urged all parties to hand over illegal weapons.

His group is the latest of the renegade groups of soldiers to hand in small caches of weapons in recent weeks.

''We want show to the world and the people of Timor Leste that we don't want to fight anymore and we support peace,'' Araujo, also known as Major Tara, told reporters, referring to the official name of East Timor.

The soldiers handed over nine guns, including four M-16s, during the exchange in the town of Gleno, about 30 km (18 miles) southwest of the capital, Dili.

Mari Alkatiri, prime minister by virtue of his Fretilin party's 55 seats in the 88-member parliament, resigned on June 26 after being broadly blamed for the violence that came after he sacked almost half the army for protesting against discrimination.

''We also ask President Xanana to ensure all are disarmed holding illegal weapons, otherwise Xanana will lose the people's trust,'' Araujo said.

East Timor's widely popular president and liberation hero, Xanana Gusmao, had threatened to resign unless the premier stood down.

A new prime minister is expected to be picked this week, with Nobel Peace Prize laureate and former foreign minister Jose Ramos-Horta widely regarded as the most likely candidate.

REUTERS SK VV1108

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