Subject: Lusa: EU pledges continuing aid, despite two-thirds cutback in 2004

East Timor: EU pledges continuing aid, despite two-thirds cutback in 2004

Nusa Dua, Indonesia, July 24 (Lusa)- Financial assistance to East Timor from the European Union is set to fall by over 60 percent next year, although Brussels remains committed to support the world`s newest nation, a senior EU official has said.

Chris Patten, the EU's foreign affairs commissioner, told Lusa Wednesday that the European bloc will transfer about USD 8 million to Timor in 2004, compared to the USD 25 million it donated in 2003 - a reduction of about two-thirds in EU aid to Timor.

Speaking in Bali at a Asia-Europe meeting of foreign ministers, Patten said the EU has been one of Timor's main donors, releasing about USD 140 million in recent years. On a per capita basis, this aid has been higher than to other countries in Southeast Asia, he noted.

"We continue committed to supporting Timor and will do this in years to come".

From 2004, Timor ceases to have a direct line of EU financial support and starts to receive aid targeted at Asia by Brussels.

Patten said Timor "will have access to significant assistance through the Contonou Accord", a pact between the EU and Asian, Caribbean and Paciffic (ACP) group of countries.

EU sources have told Lusa that a possible channeling of funds to Timor is being studied in Brussels after Dili`s joining of the ACP earlier this year.

ASP/CJB -Lusa-

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