Police fire tear gas, rubber bullets after violence flares in East Timor
DILI, East Timor (AP) - Security forces fired tear gas and rubber bullets at gangs of youths in East Timor's capital after an explosion occurred Sunday near the main compound of Australian troops and houses were set ablaze, officials and witnesses said.
There were no immediate reports of serious injuries in the violence, which occurred days after politicians failed to decide who should lead a new coalition government.
Order was largely restored with the arrival of international troops, but isolated incidents continue and _ with inconclusive parliamentary elections last month _ the country's political future remains uncertain.
An explosion occurred at the heliport used by Australian troops on Sunday night, said Ivan Benitez, a spokesman for the International Stabilization Force, adding that no one was injured in the blast and that an investigation was being conducted.
At least one house was burned to the ground and others were on fire in the capital, Dili. Gangs of boys also were burning tires in the streets, said U.N. police spokeswoman Monica Rodrigues, adding that «police dispersed them by firing tear gas and rubber bullets.
Unemployment hovers at around 50 percent, and aid agencies have warned that a fifth of the population is threatened by food shortages after crop failures.
Rival political forces have until July 30 to decide who should lead a new coalition government, but talks headed by President Jose Ramos-Horta on Thursday yielded no results.
Leaders of the Fretilin party, which won the most votes in last month's elections but not a majority, met with an alliance headed by the new party of independence hero Xanana Gusmao, the National Coalition for the Reconstruction of East Timor.
Both sides rejected calls for power-sharing, however, apparently split over who should take the top job of prime minister.