Subject: LUSA: PM Alkatiri begins 3-day Portugal visit; aid programs on agenda

21-10-2002 11:42:00. Notícia nº 4246105…

East Timor: PM Alkatiri begins 3-day Portugal visit; aid programs on agenda

East Timor's prime minister, Mari Alkatiri, begins a three-day visit to Portugal Monday, his first to the former colonial ruler since the Southeast Asian country gained independence from UN administration on May 20 following 24 years of Indonesian occupation.

Alkatiri's visit, which comes on the heels of trips to Mozambique and Angola, centers on consolidating already strong diplomatic and aid ties to Lisbon, analysts said.

Portugal has emerged as a major aid partner in its own right and within the framework of the European Union and United Nations since the East Timorese voted for independence in a 1999 UN-sponsored plebiscite.

On Monday Alkatiri was scheduled to hold talks with Prime Minister Jose Manuel Durao Barroso, the governor of the Bank of Portugal, and the ministers of education and finance.

President Jorge Sampaio will also receive Alkatiri, who has meetings scheduled with other senior Portuguese authorities, during his stay.

Timorese President Xanana Gusmao visited Portugal two weeks ago, saying he had gained assurance of continued Portuguese aid despite Lisbon's recent belt-tightening policies.

Gusmao said details of aid programs would be worked out by Alkatiri.

In a related development, East Timor's Catholic church leader, Dili Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo, criticized his country's authorities for spending too much time on travelling in search of foreign aid.

"They fly from one country to another in search of money, but the reality is that the people await that their daily problems be resolved", Belo, a Nobel peace laureate, told Lusa Sunday during a visit to the northern Portuguese city of Lamego.

EL/AMF/SAS -Lusa-

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