updated 6/26/2006 1:44:30 AM ET 2006-06-26T05:44:30

East Timor’s prime minister said Monday that he was ready to resign to help end weeks of unrest and political turmoil.

The announcement came as thousands of protesters joined church leaders and politicians in demanding that Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri step down.

Many East Timorese say Alkatiri’s dismissal of 600 disgruntled soldiers in March was to blame for street battles and gang warfare that left at least 30 people dead and forced nearly 150,000 others to flee their homes.

It was the worst violence since the nation voted for independence from Indonesia seven years ago.

“I declare I am ready to resign from my position as prime minister,” Alkatiri said at a news conference in the capital, Dili.

Alkatiri is also battling allegations that he formed a hit squad to silence opponents.

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