Subject: AP: Foreign-bound mail grinds to a halt in East Timor

Foreign-bound mail grinds to a halt in East Timor

June 24, 2004 2:45am Associated Press WorldStream

DILI, East Timor_Don't bother sending a postcard from East Timor anytime soon _ or for that matter anything at all.

Since February, a dispute over unpaid bills has halted all outgoing mail from the tiny half-island nation. As a result, some 4,000 kilograms (8,818 pounds) of letters, parcels and other documents are piling up at the airport.

Cesar Vital Moreira, vice minister for transport, communication and public works, blamed the county's former United Nations administrators for the crisis, saying it had failed to pay a debt with Australia's Qantas airline over mail delivery.

A U.N. spokesman in East Timor, however, denied this, adding that it had never entered into a contract with any airline to distribute mail.

Moreira said that much of the mail consisted of documents supporting pension claims by East Timorese who had worked for the county's former Portuguese colonial rulers. He said that if the letters did not arrive in Lisbon soon, then ex-civil servant's pension payments would be delayed.

Moreira said he had met with a local freight company and hoped to sign a contract soon with them to deliver the mail.

The United Nations began administering East Timor in 1999 after Indonesian troops largely destroyed the territory when it voted for independence from Jakarta. It became fully independent in 2002.

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