Subject: EU chief says bloc will soon open delegation office in East Timor

Also- East Timor: EC chief pledges boosted cooperation  

EU chief says bloc will soon open delegation office in East Timor

May 30, 2005 10:18am

Associated Press WorldStream

BRUSSELS, Belgium_European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said Monday the European Union would soon open a delegation office in East Timor to further help reconstruction efforts there.

Barroso said the 25-nation EU was "working very closely" with East Timor in its effort to build a viable state. He made the announcement after talks with East Timor's Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri, who was making his first visit to EU headquarters in Brussels.

"I confirmed to the prime minister ... our wish to upgrade the level of our representation in East Timor," Barroso said, adding it "shows our commitment to reinforce our cooperation."

The Commission's relations with East Timor are currently run out of its delegation in Jakarta, Indonesia.

The EU is expected to spend some €10 million (US$12.5 million) in aid to the impoverished island nation this year.

Alkatiri said the "priority remains to build up the state and its infrastructure," after East Timor's people voted in 1999 for independence from Indonesia. The former Portuguese colony had been occupied by Indonesia since 1975.

Prior to coming to Brussels, Alkatiri visited non-EU member Norway to study the Nordic nation's oil industry.

East Timor is developing its own offshore oil industry with advice from Norway, the world's third-largest oil exporter after Saudi Arabia and Russia.

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East Timor: EC chief pledges boosted cooperation

Brussels, May 30 (Lusa) - European Commission President José Manuel Durão Barroso reaffirmed Monday the EU's commitment to shore up its cooperation with East Timor and expand its existing mission in the new nation.

Speaking after a meeting with visiting Timorese Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri, the Commission chief said Brussels will soon "raise its level of representation in Timor", where it currently has only one office.

"It is not just a technical question. It is a sign of our commitment to Timor's development, said Durão Barroso, who said he had reviewed "ties of friendship and cooperation" with his "old friend", Alkatiri.

The EC chief expressed "great admiration" for Dili+s achievements in "ensuring a democratic state of law", noting that Brussels has pumped euros 179 million into Timor in recent years and another the new nation is likely to benefit from euros 18 million over the next 24 months.

In reply, Alkatiri said the Commission has "been one on the main partners in Timor's development, especially during the last three years".

After his encounter with Durão Barroso, the Timorese leader held talks with Development Commissioner Louis Michel.

Alkatiri's Brussels meetings with top EU officials came mid-way through a European tour that has already taken him to Norway and Finland.

The Timorese leader, traveling with his foreign and finance ministers caps his European swing with a four day visit to Portugal beginning Tuesday.

Separately, Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said Monday that Canberra and Dili are close to an accord on joint hydrocarbon exploration in the Timor Sea.

Downer told parliament that the issue of maritime boundaries would be shelved for 50 years and Dili would receive half of revenues from the Greater Sunrise field.

No comment was immediately available from the Timorese government, which described a similar announcement earlier this month from Canberra on an oil deal as "an absolute lie", as negotiations are still in progress.

ACC/SAS/EL/CJB.

Lusa


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