Subject: LUSA: At start of visit to Portugal, PM minimizes Church leader's censure

21-10-2002 20:01:00. Notícia nº 4248521…

East Timor: At start of visit to Portugal, PM minimizes Church leader's censure

Dili`s prime minister, Mari Alkatiri, down played Monday criticisms made by Timor`s religious leader, Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo, that his country`s leaders spent too much time traveling and neglected the people.

Responding to the comments made at the weekend by Nobel laureate Bishop Belo, who is visiting Portugal, Alkatiri said he had known the Catholic prelate for a long time and respected him.

"He is very spontaneous. But his words are precisely this, they emerge with a spontaneous will", said Alkatiri, who began a three- day visit to Portugal Monday.

In Lisbon, Alkatiri held talks with Prime Minister Jose Manuel Durao Barroso and the governor of the Bank of Portugal, Vitor Constancio, with whom he discussed the creation of a central bank in Timor.

President Jorge Sampaio will also receive Alkatiri, who has meetings scheduled with other senior Portuguese authorities during his stay.

Alkatiri's visit, which comes on the heels of trips to Mozambique and Angola, centers on consolidating already strong diplomatic and aid ties to Lisbon, analysts said.

Portugal has emerged as a major aid partner in its own right and within the framework of the European Union and United Nations since the East Timorese voted for independence in a 1999 UN-sponsored plebiscite.

Timorese President Xanana Gusmao visited Portugal two weeks ago, saying he had gained assurance of continued Portuguese aid despite Lisbon's recent belt-tightening policies.

Gusmao said details of aid programs would be worked out by Alkatiri.

SAS/CJB -Lusa-

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