Subject: NPR: East Timor becomes a sovereign state

Talk of the Nation (2:00 PM ET) - NPR

May 16, 2002 Thursday

East Timor becomes a sovereign state

ANCHORS: FRANK STASIO

FRANK STASIO, host:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Frank Stasio in Washington. Tomorrow, join Ira Flatow on the next "Science Friday" for a debate on therapeutic cloning. That's cloning for experimental purposes. Plus, a glimpse under the moon's surface, tomorrow on TALK OF THE NATION/"Science Friday."

Right now, we turn to the celebrations for a new country. Welcome mats are rolling out this weekend for the birth of the world's newest nation. On Sunday, May 19th, the former Portuguese and later Indonesian colony of East Timor becomes a sovereign state, the Democratic Republic of East Timor. The US delegation to the celebration in Dili will be led by former President Bill Clinton. The new republic has a president, it has a parliament, but how will East Timor handle the challenges of independence?

We're joined right now by Constancio Pinto, who is the Washington representative of East Timor. He's been good enough to join us from his capital in Dili, where, at midnight, it is now the middle of the night. Welcome.

Mr. CONSTANCIO PINTO (Washington Representative of East Timor): Thank you for having me.

STASIO: Eric Schwartz is senior fellow at the US Institute of Peace. He's a former special adviser for East Timor during the Clinton administration, on the phone from Washington. Welcome to the program, Eric.

Mr. ERIC SCHWARTZ (US Institute of Peace): Thank you. It's a pleasure to be here.

STASIO: And if you have a question about East Timor, we invite you to join the conversation. Call us at (800) 989-TALK. Our e-mail address, totn@npr.org. And the phone number again, 1 (800) 989-8255.

Mr. Pinto, the official handover ceremony from the UN happens on midnight Sunday, very exciting times for the Timorese people. What's going on right now in preparation for these celebrations?

Mr. PINTO: Everyone is preparing for that. There will be a number of events around the celebration in the city of Dili, as well as in Patchitolo, which is the outskirt of Dili where the ceremony of the handover is going to occur. Everybody is excited to see this day happen.

STASIO: Eric Schwartz, you worked for President Clinton at the height of the violence between East Timor and Indonesia in 1999. The president will be there. Did you expect such a smooth transition to independence?

Mr. SCHWARTZ: Well, I think we were hopeful, because so many of the conditions were favorable, at least after the terrible events of September 1999, in particular given the strong support of the international community and the leadership of the government of Australia. I think that there was a lot of hope for this transition.

STASIO: Constancio Pinto, it is one thing to become a country. It is another thing to be a country. You enter the world probably one of the poorest


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