Subject: Interview: Horta Sees Internet Future for E.Timor

INTERVIEW-Horta sees Internet future for E.Timor

By Chris Johnson

BANGKOK, Feb 13 (Reuters) - East Timor's future is on the Internet, and it plans to surf it for trade and investment, Nobel Prize-winning independence leader Jose Ramos-Horta said.

The small territory will use the global computer network to keep in touch with the rest of the world when it becomes independent in two years' time, Ramos-Horta told Reuters.

``In this global economy, you don't have to have really an enormous space and population of your own,'' he said late on Saturday in an interview on the sidelines of a summit of the United Nations trade and development agency UNCTAD.

``You sit at the computer and you trade anywhere around the world. You can buy, you can sell, just at the touch of a keyboard. We are part of the global economy,'' he said.

``We look forward first domestically to produce enough food, enough for the population, and educate our people.

``But as a small nation we have to look at the world through the Internet, meaning surf the rest of the world for business opportunities to sell, to buy, to invest,'' he said.

East Timor has fought a bloody battle for independence from Indonesia, the world's fourth most populous state. Ramos-Horta said a large population was not necessarily an advantage.

``East Timor is as large or larger than about 40 independent states in the United Nations today and we have great resources and many of them. So why would we not be able to do equally well as Brunei or Fiji, the Caribbean nations and many others?''

SIZE ISN'T EVERYTHING

``We have too many examples, including right around us where the large size of population is not a guarantee of economic viablity and stability,'' he said.

Ramos-Horta said he was attending the UNCTAD summit to discuss visits this month of both Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

``The secretary-general is very keen, very determined to help us normalise relations with Indonesia and we are working closely in this regard,'' he said.

U.N. peacekeepers took over East Timor last year after a wave of violence followed a referendum vote for independence.

Ramos-Horta, who left East Timor for a long exile days before Indonesia invaded in 1975, said the territory had made progress towards reconciliation in recent months, creating the peace and stability needed for investment.

Over the next year, East Timor had to build up its infrastructure, establish courts and hold elections for villages, districts, and at a national level.

He expected independence in two years and East Timor's first leader to be fellow independence leader Xanana Gusmao.

``I have no doubt that it will be Xanana Gusmao, although he has said he is not going to seek public office. He has no choice because he believes he cannot turn his back on his people. So I am absolutely certain he will stand for election.''

On the economy of the strifetorn territory, Ramos-Horta said: ``We have tremendous international goodwill that I hope can translate into concrete devivery of the monies pledged.

``At the same time we have abundant resources and we have tremendous potential for agriculture, fisheries and tourism and proven reserves of oil and natural gas to the tune of tens of millions of dollars in the next two and three years. So all the conditions are there,'' he said.

He said he expected East Timor to be admitted soon as a member of the Association of South East Asian Nations.


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