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Portugals intelligence chief accused Australia of fomenting unrest in East Timor

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Hannah Bell Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Apr-25-11 01:24 AM
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Leaked diplomatic cables sent from the US embassy in Lisbon, Portugal in June 2006 have revealed that a leading Portuguese intelligence official told American diplomatic officials that the Australian government had repeatedly fomented unrest in East Timor, in order to advance its geopolitical and commercial interests. The extraordinary exchange occurred two weeks after Canberra had dispatched a military intervention force to the oil and gas rich state, as part of its regime change campaign against Timorese Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri.

The Australian government, then led by John Howard, targeted Alkatiri because of his perceived alignment with rival powers, especially Portugal, Timors former colonial ruler, and China. The Fretilin party leader was also despised by Canberra for his extraction of unwelcome concessions during negotiations over the division of the Timor Seas energy resources.

In February and March 2006, about 600 Timorese soldiers, known as the petitioners, mutinied. President Xanana Gusmao then issued a provocative speech on March 23 in which he denounced the Alkatiri government as corrupt and dictatorial. In April, various criminal and ex-Indonesian militia elements joined the petitioners and staged a series of violent attacks on soldiers and security forces who remained loyal to the state. The Australian government seized on the unrest to demand Alkatiris removal.

An Australian occupation force, comprising 1,300 troops and police backed by armoured vehicles and attack helicopters, was ordered into Timor on May 24. At the same time, the Australian media went into a frenzy, demanding Alkatiris resignation. The ABCs Four Corners broadcast a lurid report featuring bogus accusations that the prime minister had formed a hit squad to assassinate Fretilins opponents. On June 26, Alkatiri capitulated, handing power to Canberras favoured candidate, Jose Ramos-Horta.
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