Subject: LUSA: General Optimism, Some Caution on First Day of Donor Conference

Also: Dili Needs Euros 800 Million in Next Four Years - Lisbon Official

11 Dec 01 21:16 East Timor: General Optimism, Some Caution on First Day of Donor Conference

Representatives of 23 donor nations and international financial institutions converged on the Norwegian capital Tuesday for the fifth East Timorese donors conference, the first to be attended by UN Secretary-General Koffi Annan and elected officials from the Asian territory.

Annan expressed satisfaction with the recovery of the territory which was devastated in a wave of destruction following the 1999 UN-organized referendum. He said the task of leading the Timorese independence process had been "one of the biggest responsibilities" of the world body he directs.

"We are near the end of a memorable journey", which began in a situation of "devastation and violence" and which will end "the moment East Timor declares its independence", the UN secretary general said during the conference opening ceremony. However, Annan reminded that among remaining problems was the continued presence of more than 60,000 East Timorese refugees in West Timor, who had fled the post- referendum violence in 1999.

World Bank President Jim Wolfensohn said at the conference opening ceremony his organization would continue to support the Timorese people, so that they could "build their own country and determine their future". Support from international organizations has been requested by Dili for another three years, until receipts from gas and oil begin to trickle into the new state`s coffers. Jim Wolfensohn said the Timorese had worked "day and night" in the recovery of their country. The World Bank has been one of the principal institutions involved in the reconstruction and has also acted in an accounting role. Wolfensohn was optimistic, saying that in only two years since the destruction of nearly all the territory`s structures, nearly 95 percent of children had returned to primary school - the figure for secondary education was 65 percent.

At the end of Tuesday`s proceedings, Portugal`s secretary of state for foreign affairs and cooperation, Luis Amado, told Lusa that the next three years are a "critical period" in terms of international aid to the territory. "With a more active UN involvement and the main partners involved in the process, including Portugal, we will manage to achieve the necessary effort", said Amado. However, the Portuguese minister cautioned that "requests for international aid are very large" and "some countries will cease to be donors to East Timor". Amado added that Kosovo, Bosnia, some African countries and Afghanistan, "will demand colossal amounts" from donor countries.

East Timor`s Chief Minister Mari Alkatiri, for his part, said the crucial meeting for determining the necessary financial pledges until 2005 will be in April 2002, before independence. Alkatiri said that the Oslo meeting was essentially to "relay the message" that, what until now has been between the UN and donors, will become a matter between the Dili government and those donors following independence. "This change is being well accepted", said East Timor`s head of government.

CJB -Lusa-

12 Dec 01 11:45 East Timor: Dili Needs Euros 800 Million in Next Four Years - Lisbon Official

The Portuguese government estimates that East Timor will need about euros 800 million in foreign aid during the next four years, until the territory begins receiving significant revenues from offshore oil and gas operations.

The estimate was made by Luis Amado, Lisbon´s state secretary for foreign affairs and cooperation, Tuesday night in Oslo at the close of the first day of a two-day donors conference.

In comments to Lusa, Amado underlined that increased demands on donor nations from the Balkans, Africa and, now, Afghanistan, would strain international aid capacity to East Timor´s disadvantage.

However, he said he was confident that with a "more active engagement" by the United Nations, which currently administers the territory, and Dili´s "principal partners", including Portugal, it would be possible to "gather the necessary (aid) reinforcement".

Lisbon has already announced it would match its yearly aid to Dili since 2000, granting its former Asian territory between euros 75 million and euros 80 million next year.

SAS -Lusa-

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