Subject: AFP: Senior US official meets East Timor's president

Also: Pledging aid, US official says Washington paying 'great attention'

Agence France Presse
August 2, 2006 Wednesday 10:24 AM GMT

Senior US official meets East Timor's president

DILI, Aug 2 2006

US assistant secretary of state Christopher Hill met East Timor's president Wednesday for discussions including the mandate of the next UN mission in the tiny nation.

Hill, who is also due to meet newly-appointed prime minister Jose Ramos-Horta on his two-day trip, is the most senior US official to visit East Timor since it became independent in 2002.

"We had a good discussion," Hill told reporters after meeting President Xanana Gusmao.

Hill said they had discussed the challenges facing East Timor's government, issues such as unemployment and the UN's next mission.

A small UN mission in Dili was due to end in May but had its mandate extended to August 20 by the UN Security Council, with a larger mission expected to be deployed from then.

"We also talked about the fact that at the end of the day, the people of East Timor, they need to solve these (problems) and not the United Nations," Hill added.

Hill said the United States supported the extension of the UN mission in East Timor "but we want to have a good analysis and good understanding of the problems here, so we'll do all we can to help."

In a statement issued by the US embassy in Dili, Hill conveyed his sympathy to the East Timorese for losses caused by recent violence.

At least 21 people were killed and 150,000 displaced by factional infighting among East Timor's security forces and street battles involving ethnic gangs.

Some 3,200 international peacekeepers were deployed to restore calm.

"Building a newly-independent nation is hard, and as recent events have shown, perhaps much harder than many of us thought...Now is the time to remember what you have been able to accomplish together and to face the future with that strength," Hill said.

A UN administration ran East Timor until 2002 after it voted for independence from Indonesia in 1999.

Indonesia had annexed East Timor with the tacit approval of major powers, including the United States, but the brutality of its occupation turned world opinion against Jakarta.

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East Timor: Pledging aid, US official says Washington paying 'great attention'

Dili, Aug. 2 (Lusa) - Washington was following East Timor's recovery from weeks of violence and political turmoil with "great attention", a senior US official said Wednesday on his arrival in Dili for talks with the country's leaders.

"We are very worried, above all over the events of April and May, but we hope that things will get better", said Christopher Hill, the assistant secretary of state for Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

Hill, the most senior US official to visit East Timor since it gained independence in 2002, added that Washington was "following the situation" in Dili "with great attention" and would continue to aid the fledgling nation.

During his 24-hour stay in the Timorese capital, Hill was scheduled to meet with President Xanana Gusmão, Parliament Speaker Francisco Guterres, Prime Minister José Ramos Horta and Foreign Minister José Luís Guterres.

Gusmão and other leaders were expected to tell Hill that, while there had been improvements, the security situation remained fragile and that humanitarian needs continued great, despite the deployment of about 2,500 international peacekeepers, including a Portuguese police contingent, in May.

The president extended 30-day emergency measures, first declared May 30, for a second time Monday.

In discussing the extension with his Council of State, Gusmão, according to a statement seen by Lusa, said that despite "significant progress" on several fronts the security situation remained very precarious".

He described humanitarian needs among the more than 100,000 people still displaced by the violence as "very grave".

The wave of violence broke out in late April in clashes between rival security force factions and then turned into communal gang rampages that killed 37 people and displaced more than 130,000.

SAS/EL.

Lusa


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