Subject: Asahi: Japan looks to E. Timor as test for Iraq

Japan looks to E. Timor as test for Iraq By TARO KARASAKI, The Asahi Shimbun

As Japan jockeys for a role in the reconstruction of Iraq, the government is looking to another of its nation-building projects as a model-East Timor.

On Wednesday, Japan pledged $470,000 in assistance to the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation, based in Dili, East Timor. The commission aims to settle disputes between the fledgling government and insurgent elements.

Barred by the Constitution to use military force in resolving conflicts, Tokyo envisions a new role for Japan as a ``peace and nation builder,'' one more actively involved in the initial stages of a nation's birth. And it hopes the success of cases like East Timor will be a feather in Japan's cap as it pursues a key role in rebuilding Iraq.

With the attention of Western powers focused on the Middle East, East Timorese Foreign Minister and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Jose Ramos-Horta expressed appreciation for Japan's aid commitment.

``Foreign Minister (Yoriko) Kawaguchi stated that Japan remains committed to maintaining the current level of assistance to East Timor for the next three years,'' Ramos-Horta said in an interview with Asahi Shimbun reporters on Thursday.

Ramos-Horta, who calls Japan ``East Timor's No. 1 donor,'' stressed the importance of further aid to help build the country's infrastructure and develop human resources.

A Japanese Foreign Ministry official, meanwhile, said the government hopes East Timor will develop successfully and become a shining addition to its portfolio of nation-building achievements, such as in Sri Lanka and still-fragile Afghanistan.

``We hope that the example of East Timor, as well as other examples in which we have been involved, will serve as reference for our involvement in Iraq,'' said the official, who is with the Foreign Ministry's Southeast Asia Division.

The latest aid promise comes as East Timor faces doubts about its stability.

In December, police shot and killed two demonstrators at a student protest reportedly incited by anti-government guerrillas. And in January, five villagers near the border with West Timor were killed in an attack blamed on rebel militia.

Ramos-Horta, however, said East Timor was ``far more stable than any post-conflict situation in the Balkans, or southern Africa.''

Nevertheless, he blames a lack of ``financial and human resources'' for jobs and essential public services as the cause of East Timor's current problems.

``That is why our government needs assistance from the international community, including Japan,'' he said.

``We have to perform better, in absorption capability of projects and in political security, to convince our donors,'' he added.(IHT/Asahi: April 26,2003)

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