Subject: E. Timor leaders meet with aid donors on post-independence help

Subject: E. Timor leaders meet with aid donors on post-independence help

East Timor leaders meet with aid donors on post-independence help

WASHINGTON, Sept 29 (AFP) - East Timor independence leaders meet here Wednesday with donor countries to discuss post-independence help, taking their place on the international financial stage for the first time.

"The significance of this meeting is that for the first time East Timor is representing itself as a country on the world stage," World Bank spokesman Peter Stephens said.

The meeting comes after Indonesian minister of state for finance Boediono (eds: one name) on Tuesday expressed "deep regret" for the loss of life in East Timor at a gathering of world financial leaders at the IMF and World Bank annual meeting here.

A senior UN official said in New York late Tuesday that Indonesia has agreed to let the United Nations set up a civil administration East Timor before the parliament in Jakarta formally rescinds its annexation of the territory, which will not happen before November.

East Timor independence leaders Xanana Gusmao and Jose Ramos Horta, a Nobel peace prize laureate, will represent East Timor at the meeting which will gather at least 20-30 countries and possibly more, Stephens said.

They will include representatives from the Asia-Pacific region, industrial countries, United Nations, the World Bank and other international financial institutions.

Wednesday's meeting will discuss the situation in East Timor and how to handle the transition from emergency humanitarian aid to longer-term reconstruction programmes once the violence ends, Stephens said.

The informal meeting was set up partly to ensure that "a very small country with very large needs does not get overloaded with donor confusion," he added.

The World Bank plans to send a mission to East Timor to make a preliminary assessment of the situation and need "as soon as it is safe," and hopefully in about two weeks' time, he said.

If that were possible, a formal donor meeting could be held in November, he said.

The meeting is being organised by the World Bank because it normally acts as coordinator of international aid efforts for developing countries in what are known as Consultative Groups.

Violence by pro-Indonesia militias which erupted after the territory voted overwhelmingly for independence on August 30 left the capital, Dili, in flames and sent hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing into the hills.

A spokesman for the UN World Food Program (WFP) said in Geneva on Wednesday that more than 80 percent of East Timor's population will soon need food aid.

"The rainy season is coming, the roads will be less navigable. A race against the clock is on," she said.

The agency said 740,000 East Timorese, of an estimated population of 880,000, are in need of assistance.

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