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E.Timor rebel slams govt over international troops

Written by: Staff
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DILI, Sep 9 (Reuters) An East Timorese rebel leader who escaped from jail last month says the presence of international peacekeepers in the strife-torn country shows the government is incapable of ruling.

Major Alfredo Reinado was one of the key players behind a revolt that plunged East Timor into chaos in May, prompting Australia to lead an international peacekeeping force to restore order.

International troops and police have been searching for him since his escape from prison, along with about 50 others, which has raised fresh concerns about fragile security in the former Portuguese colony.

''I think when you need the international force to interfere (in) the internal problem that means your government doesn't have (the) capability to rule this country,'' Reinado told Reuters Television from his hideout.

''If the government doesn't have any credibility any more then people have a right to ask them to step down.'' Dili suffered a series of protests that evolved into widespread violence in May after 600 members of East Timor's 1,400-strong army were sacked.

An estimated 100,000 people were displaced and at least 20 killed in the violence, which led to the deployment of a 2,500-strong international peacekeeping force.

Reinado denied responsibility for the violence in the tiny nation. ''Why are they (international forces) looking for me? I am not the troublemaker, I didn't do any criminal act or anything.'' The United Nations has agreed on a new mission to East Timor, comprising some 1,600 police, despite a dispute over whether Australian-led troops already there should remain independent or be part of a UN force.

REUTERS PDM DS1425

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