Subject: RT: Donors back rebuilding, pledge more funds

PORTUGAL: E. Timor donors back rebuilding, pledge more funds.

06/23/2000 Reuters English News Service (C) Reuters Limited 2000.

LISBON, June 23 (Reuters) - International donors pledged a further $16 million for East Timor on Friday and backed efforts so far by the United Nations and the local Timorese leadership to rebuild the devastated Asian territory.

"The responses received by member states and international organisations constitute a vote of confidence," Chief U.N. administrator for the territory, Sergio Viera de Mello, told a news conference.

Viera de Mello spoke at the end of a two-day meeting of U.N. officials, Timorese leaders and donors to take stock of the situattion since countries pledged $520 million, spread over several years, in humanitarian aid and development finance to the former Portuguese colony.

East Timor voted last August for independence from Indonesia, which first invaded and then annexed it after the Portuguese pulled out in 1975.

Pro-Jakarta militias, which are still active in the western half of the Pacific island, went on an orgy of killings and destruction after the referendum and the U.N. sent in troops to restore order.

The U.N. is now administering the territory as it prepares for independent statehood within the next few years.

However, East Timorese resistance leader Xanana Gusmao rejected a proposal by Portuguese Foreign Minister Jaime Gama that the U.N. should quickly set a date for independence, saying that it was too early for such a move.

"We are still at the start of a difficult process and we do not want to rush things," he said.

Viera de Mello said that the U.N. planned to speed up the handing over of administrative tasks to the East Timorese, with a new consultative council of local political leaders to be formed shortly.

The U.N., together with East Timorese political leaders, was also intensifying contacts with Indonesia, which controls the western part of the island, in a bid to end to the activities of the militias and encourage remaining refugees to return home.

Viera de Mello told the meeting that U.N. troops had arrested 12 armed men from a militia band that infiltrated East Timor from the West on Wednesday.

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