Subject: E. Timor to lobby U.N. for continued technical aid

E. Timor to lobby U.N. for continued technical aid

By Martin Roberts

LISBON, Oct 26 (Reuters) - East Timor's transitional government said on Friday it planned to lobby the United Nations for what it considers essential technical support after the Asian territory is granted formal independence next May.

Mari Alkatiri, chief minister of East Timor's recently elected transitional assembly, said he hoped the United Nations would fund between 100 and 150 technical staff to help build a viable administration for the impoverished and conflict-ravaged nation.

"We know there are different opinions, but from here we will go to New York to try to defend our ideas, our arguments," Alkatiri told a news conference in Lisbon after signing a co-operation accord with former colonial power Portugal.

East Timor's newly elected constituent assembly has asked the United Nations, which has been administering the territory since 1998, to grant it independence next May 20. The U.N. Security Council is expected to approve the date by the end of the month.

International staff numbering 550 and about 600 U.N. volunteers have already begun to leave East Timor and are set to be reduced by about 75 percent by independence.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said on Monday the number of staff remaining would depend on progress in local institutions.

Annan said the U.N. had identified about "100 core functions for which local expertise does not exist but which are essential to the (new government's) stability and functioning."

"We consider the U.N. has a make the state viable, to build a sustainable administration," said Alkatiri, whose Fretilin party of former independence fighters won the constituent assembly elections on August 30.

East Timor's fragile infrastructure was battered in 1999 when militias trained by the Indonesian army unleashed a campaign of killing, looting and burning down buildings after a vote to end some 23 years of often brutal rule by Indonesia.

U.N. peacekeepers have since had to contain violence on the island's border with Indonesian-controlled West Timor.

Annan said the nearly 9,000 U.N. peacekeepers would be cut to about 5,000 by independence. Alkatiri said he was satisfied the reduced number would be sufficient to protect the fledgling state.

"The situation in East Timor has changed a great deal, and Indonesian government policy towards East Timor is greatly changed. There is more goodwill from the government of President Megawati (Sukarnoputri)," he said. 

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