Subject: AP: Portuguese premier pledges continued support for East Timor

Portuguese premier pledges continued support for East Timor By HEATHER PATERSON

04/25/2000 Associated Press Newswires

DILI, East Timor (AP) - Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres concluded a four-day visit to East Timor Tuesday by pledging continued support for his country's former colony.

"We will ask the rich and powerful countries to help with the reconstruction of East Timor so you don't have to stay in burnt houses anymore without water and electricity," Guterres told a crowd of about 2,500 people gathered in Dili's soccer stadium.

"But you must work to build your country," said the premier whose country holds the presidency of the 15-nation European Union.

The EU has promised to provide a multimillion package of reconstruction aid to the half-island territory which was devastated by Indonesian troops after a U.N.-sponsored independence referendum in August.

The United Nations is administering East Timor during its transition to full independence.

Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975, soon after the collapse of Portugal's colonial empire. Many analysts have blamed Portugal for abandoning East Timor to its fate after an army coup ousted the neo-fascist dictatorship in Lisbon in 1974 and installed a democratic regime.

Despite Portugal's staunch support for the East Timorese resistance during Indonesia's 24-year military occupation, there was little public enthusiasm for Guterres' visit.

A welcoming ceremony was boycotted by Falintil, the guerrilla army that battled Indonesia's brutal rule. Many of the rebels were former colonial soldiers who still feel betrayed by Portugal's hasty retreat in 1975.

Independence leader Jose Alexandre "Xanana" Gusmao sought to allay lingering tensions by thanking Portugal for its assistance.

"During 25 years Portugal supported us and never abandoned our people," Gusmao said. "We need to think about the future together ... we must repair this country and prepare a good future for our children."

Gusmao has announced plans to introduce Portuguese as East Timor 's official language. The proposal is opposed by youth groups which have called for a referendum on the issue.

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