|Subject: Lusa: Lisbon`s Leaders Praise
Their Troops, Sign Aid Accords
20-05-2002 18:32:00 GMT Invalid Hora local. Notícia 3678721
East Timor: Lisbon`s Leaders Praise Their Troops, Sign Aid Accords
Portugal's president and prime minister met Monday with Portuguese UN peacekeepers in East Timor, praising their role in aiding the country's transition to independence and pledging Lisbon's continued military support to Dili.
Separately, the foreign ministers of the two countries signed three cooperation accords, one centered on "technical-military" aid.
President Jorge Sampaio told his troops that their mission in Timor was one of the "best pages" in Portuguese history and the "most emotional and heaviest" of Portugal's UN and NATO peacekeeping commitments.
Prime Minister Jose Manuel Durao Barroso, who accompanied Sampaio in meeting with the Portuguese soldiers, told Lusa that maintaining a Portuguese contingent with UN forces in East Timor was a priority of his new government.
Austerity measures at home, Durao Barroso said, could lead to a "small reduction" in numbers, "but the idea is to maintain a military presence here".
Education and security, he stressed, were Lisbon's top aid priorities for Dili "until the situation is normalized in Timor".
Portugal currently has about 800 soldiers in the UN peacekeeping force.
The UN force's chief of staff, Portuguese Brigadier Paulo Guerreiro, described to Sampaio and Durao Barroso some of the missions carried out by Lisbon's contingent.
Among other tasks, he said Portuguese troops had reconstructed and equipped 40 schools, and provided support in logistical, agricultural and civil administration programs.
In a separate ceremony, Lisbon's foreign minister, Antonio Martins da Cruz, and his Timorese counterpart, Jose Ramos Horta, signed an over-arching, three-year cooperation accord, an agreement for Portuguese "technical-military" aid, centered on training, and an accord protecting public and private investments.
The signing ceremony was witnessed by Sampaio and Durao Barroso, who later departed Dili for Australia, where the president will remain on an official visit.
In Portugal Sunday, the leader of the junior partner in Lisbon`s coalition government, minister of state and defense minister, Paulo Portas, said that despite constraints on his budget, there was currently excellent military cooperation with Timor, which would be continued if Dili wanted.
"Portuguese cooperation will occur both in the training of Timorese army and navy units and joint border defense operations while necessary", said Portas .
East Timor: Sampaio Inaugurates Independence Monument, a Gift from Portugal
With church bells ringing, Portuguese President Jorge Sampaio inaugurated a monument to East Timor's independence Monday in a central square in Dili, the new nation's capital.
The monument, a gift from the Portuguese to the people they ruled for more than four centuries, takes the form of an opening flower, its 13 petals representing Timor's 13 districts converging into unity at the center, from where a tall flag pole rises.
The monument's inauguration took place Monday afternoon, only hours after East Timor formally gained independence from UN administration.
As the new nation's four-colored banner was raised over the monument, bells pealed from Motael's neighboring Catholic church.
Accompanying Sampaio in the last official act of his 24-hour visit to Dili to attend independence ceremonies were Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Manuel Durao Barroso and his East Timor's counterpart, Mari Alkatiri.
Shortly after inaugurating the metal and clay independence monument, Sampaio departed Dili for a state visit to Australia.
Note: For those who would like to fax "the powers that be" - CallCenter is a Native 32-bit Voice Telephony software application integrated with fax and data communications... and it's free of charge! Download from http://www.v3inc.com/