The parliament met on Monday in the absence of some deputies who were unable to attend because of safety concerns or lack of transport.

At least 45 deputies from the 88-seat parliament met in an attempt to revive the workings of a government that has been virtually paralysed by factional rifts and security concerns in Dili.

Deputies said some colleagues could not attend Monday's session because they were holed up in compounds and Francisco Guterres, the parliament speaker and a leader of the ruling Fretilin party, said authorities should investigate.

"We have to find out what happened and where they are," Guterres said.

New clashes

One politician said he was worried about reports of weapons caches in his district, and another asked for security to escort him to future meetings.

While the meeting was held, foreign troops patrolled the streets of Dili, some of them firing tear gas to break up clashes between stone-throwing gangs near a bridge leading to the airport.

Rival groups set fire to several buildings near a bridge leading to the airport and stones and debris at each other before Australian peacekeepers intervened on Monday. There were no known injuries.

Call for troops

Australia, Malaysia and New
Zealand have sent 2,500 troops

Australia on Monday called for more Asian nations to send police and troops to East Timor to help quell civil unrest in the fledgling nation and prevent it from becoming a failed state.

Australia, Malaysia and New Zealand sent a force of 2,500 to East Timor to try to stop violence, caused when the government sacked 600 troops who had protested against alleged discrimination against easterners in the army by mostly western officers.

Portugal also sent police, but Brendan Nelson, the Australian defence minister, said he was confident other Asian nations would also join the coalition of forces if invited by East Timor.

"From Australia's point of view there are a number of countries who have been involved in East Timor before, and countries who work very well with New Zealand, Malaysia and Australia," Nelson told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

"I would be reasonably confident that we will see other nations choosing to join the coalition of support," he said before a visit to Malaysia on Monday and after he attended a regional security summit in Singapore over the weekend.