Subject: LUSA: Portugal Backs Continued UN Presence After Independence

18 May 01 21:03 East Timor: Portugal Backs Continued UN Presence After Independence

Lisbon supports a continuation of direct United Nations involvement in East Timor after the territory's August elections and even after full independence, the Portuguese UN ambassador said Friday during a meeting of the Security Council in New York.

Two of the most prominent East Timorese leaders, Xanana Gusmao and Jose Ramos Horta, were also present for the Council session, which was called to review the situation in East Timor[.]

Diplomatic sources said the UN is being increasingly pressed to reduce outside operations, particularly peace missions such as in East Timor.

Ambassador Francisco Seixas da Costa insisted however that it was "imperative" for the Security Council to assure means for continued UN support for the former Portuguese colony.

East Timor has been run by a UN transition administration (UNTAET) since the 24-year Indonesian occupation ended in 1999.

Seixas da Costa specified that Lisbon supports the position of the UN secretary general, that it is "prudent to keep the military component of UNTAET in its present form until the East Timorese government is completely established".

"Besides that, we hold that any later change should only be made after detailed analysis of the security situation on the ground", he said, recalling that UNTAET's mandate was to "prepare East Timor for independence".

"The (August) election of a constituent assembly is only one step in this process. It is not an end in itself and is not the goal of the UN presence in East Timor", the Lisbon diplomat added.

Separately, the US House of Representatives has approved dlrs 25 million in aid for East Timor, along with dlrs 500,000 in student scholarships. The Senate is currently studying a similar dlrs 30 million package, with the final result likely to be a compromise between the two.

Gusmao, who led the independence struggle against Indonesia, and Ramos Horta, the transition administration's foreign minister, had met Thursday in Washington with members of both chambers of the US congress.


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