Subject: LUSA: Promising Aid, Gama Urges UN To Extend UNTAET Mandate

East Timor: Promising Aid, Gama Urges UN To Extend UNTAET Mandate 16 Jan-11:47

Portuguese Foreign Minister Jaime Gama began a four-day visit to East Timor Tuesday with a call for the United Nations to extend its administrative mandate and commitment to the territory and a pledge of continued aid from Lisbon.

"We believe in relation to the UNTAET mandate that it should not be a short period", Gama told journalists in Dili after meeting with the UN transition administrator, Sergio Vieira de Mello.

"A reasonable period would be until the end of the year", he said. "But naturally, even if within one year independence is consolidated, it will be necessary to realign the UN mandate to aid independence in the subsequent period".

Gama's visit comes as the UN Security Council prepares to debate the extension and form of the UNTAET, whose current mandate ends in February.

Gama said he understood criticism leveled at the UN administration but described UNTAET's role as "exceptional".

"Comparing what the UN did in East Timor with its actions in other parts of the world, the East Timorese example has greatly contributed to rejuvenating the UN's image before the international community", he stressed.

In his talks with Vieira de Mello, Gama said he had reviewed UNTAET's efforts to create local institutions and an administration and to revive the territory's economic situation.

Portuguese aid programs, both multilateral and bilateral, had also been discussed, he added, saying that Lisbon was ready "to improve even more" its cooperation with the UN.

He promised increased technical and professional aid for the preparation of the Timorese administration, calling for stronger measures to "Timorize" the public service and decision-making process.

During his stay, which runs through Friday, Gama will also hold talks with the Timorese political and religious leadership and with commanders of the UN peacekeeping forces, which includes a strong Portuguese contingent.

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