Subject: Lusa: FM says Lisbon seeks bolstered ties with both Lusophone bloc and EU

Portugal: FM says Lisbon seeks bolstered ties with both Lusophone bloc and EU

Lisbon, March 22 (Lusa) - Foreign Minister Diogo Freitas do Amaral says Lisbon's new Socialist government intends to increase its cooperation with Portuguese-speaking African countries and East Timor, while simultaneously seeking a more dynamic role within the European Union.

Making his first speech in the Lisbon parliament Monday, Freitas do Amaral told lawmakers the government proposes to review and maximize Lisbon's bilateral cooperation with each of its five former African colonies and Timor.

Portugal's new head of diplomacy, a former conservative leader and losing rightwing candidate in a fiercely fought 1986 presidential poll won by former Socialist leader Mario Soares, said he had received invitations to visit Angola, Sao Tome and Brazil "in the near future".

Lisbon must not neglect its ties with Europe at the expense of revitalized relations with the Lusophone bloc, he cautioned, and Portugal will have a more clout within the EU through boosting its presence in Africa.

A more active and successful Portuguese diplomacy within the 25- nation European bloc would similarly give Lisbon heightened influence in its relations with its former colonies, Freitas do Amaral told MPs.

The 63-year-old founder of the CDS Christian Democrat Party, one of eight independent ministers summoned to the compact 16-member cabinet of Prime Minister José Sócrates earlier this month, said he had no qualms about working in a Socialist executive.

Lisbon's new centre-left government remains committed to membership of the NATO alliance, he said, and Portugal will continue to send military personnel to missions of a "humanitarian nature".

Freitas do Amaral has been an outspoken critic of the United States-led invasion of Iraq and he was questioned by a conservative MP on his current position towards Washington and President George W.


"I am structurally pro-America, but events make me anti-Bush because of the Iraqi war", he said, noting that the American leader has modified Washington`s "foreign policy" during his second presidential term.


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