East Timor reportedly settles dispute with church

Dili, East Timor - East Timor's government and the nation's powerful Roman Catholic Church have reportedly settled a dispute over compulsory religious classes in state schools.

The prime minister, Mari Alkatari, has told a Lisbon-based radio that he reached a deal during a meeting with the former Portuguese colony's two bishops.

However, he refused to say if the government has agreed to reverse its decision to end compulsory religious education class in schools.

Mr Alkatari says he still has to bring the issue to cabinet.

East Timor's secular government decreed in February that religion should not be a compulsory subject in government schools, although it would be made available as an option for all students if they wished.

Protesters, backed by the Catholic Church, have demanded the decision be reversed.

Thousands of people have taken part in peaceful rallies in the Timorese capital, Dili, over the past week to demand the resignation of Mr Alkatri and his leftist government.