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The ousted prime minister welcomed me to his spacious compound where I met his son and daughter, both home from studying overseas, and his muddy, wriggling puppies that quickly Pollacked my best chinos.

The media image of Mari Alkatiri is of an unsmiling, severe and aloof man; this is far better than what most ordinary people say about him. In person, he is urbane, articulate and informal. He disarmingly opened our conversation by saying that I must have heard rumors about corruption, squirrelly oil deals, arming hit squads and the like. But it was not the time for a confession.

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