Subject: LUSA: Donors conference opens under shadow of last week's riots

09-12-2002 12:33:00. Notícia nº 4428991

East Timor: Donors conference opens under shadow of last week's riots

Dili, Dec. 9 (Lusa) - A two-day donors conference got underway in the East Timorese capital Monday under heavy security, following deadly rioting in Dili last week.

The conference, involving some 250 delegates from donor nations and institutions, including the World Bank, opened to appeals from Timorese leaders for continued international understanding and support for the fledgling nation.

The meeting is primarily aimed at assessing progress made during the first six months of independence.

But observers said last week's riots, that left two dead and many Dili businesses and homes looted or burned, would also bring attention to bear on the need for a bolstered security apparatus, justice system and public administration.

The downtown hotel venue was guarded by Timorese and UN police and Portuguese UN peacekeepers. Surrounding streets were cut off with barricades of containers and sandbags.

In an opening speech, President Xanana Gusmao challenged the conference to understand "the complexity" of the problems facing his new-born country.

Among other suggestions, Gusmao urged the preparation of local elections to help fill what he called a "power vacuum" outside the capital and aid in job training for the heavily unemployed, desperately poor population of some 800,000.

In turn, Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri referred to "the shocking events" of last week, charging unidentified forces of manipulating "the people's suffering" to advance personal "ambitions".

The riots, he added, should lead to a re-evaluation of "the question of development, justice, peace and stability".

In an interview with Lusa, Alkatiri said that "crises help one grow" and that the recent violence would spur his government to seek solutions for "immediate" problems without compromising mid- and long- term development objectives.

In their speeches, UN mission chief Kamalesh Sharma and World Bank Vice-President Jamil-ud-din Kassum underlined what they called East Timor's "significant progress" and "impressive conquests" since independence last May 20.

Referring to the riots, Kassum attributed them to "frustrations, uncertainity and need", stressing that the international community must aid Dili establish "functional law and order services".

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