Subject: JP: Lisbon minister pledges continued aid beyond end of UN mandate

Also: Lisbon minister oversees launch of media, water projects; Portuguese UN battalion taking school materials to needy children

November 10, 2003

East Timor: Lisbon minister pledges continued aid beyond end of UN mandate

Dili, Nov. 10 (Lusa) - Senior Portuguese minister Nuno Morais Sarmento held talks with President Xanana Gusmão of East Timor Monday, reaffirming Lisbon's commitment to continue aiding Dili through broad cooperation programs after the end of the UN mission next May.

After the meeting, Gusmão said he had presented Dili's "preoccupations over security and international relations", asking Portugal to maintain "the commitment it has demonstrated up to now".

Morais Sarmento, minister to the presidency of the council of ministers, said Portugal was ready to colaborate in assuring "security and guaranteeing the future of East Timor".

Both leaders underlined that the framework for extended aid in the security field after the end of the UN mission on May 20 depended on negotiations between Dili, the United Nations and countries, like Portugal, that contribute to the current UN peacekeeping and police forces.

Lisbon's commitments to Dili would be "integrally kept, regardless of their cost to the budget", Morais Sarmento pledged at the start Sunday of his visit to East Timor, referring to Portugal's belt-tightening policies amid an economic downturn.

Officials said Morais Sarmento would use his four-day stay primarily to discuss current programs aimed to reintroduce and promote the use of Portuguese, one of East Timor's official languages.

Among other initiatives in Dili, the minister, who oversees the media portfolio in Lisbon, will attend the inauguration of a television studio offered by Portugal's state RTP television to its East Timorese counterpart.

Gusmão acknowledged that after 24 years of Indonesian occupation there was "some resistance" to the adoption of Portuguese as an official language by those who do not speak it, a majority of the population.

The president stressed, however, that the language was part of East Timor's "identity" and that had it not been for Portuguese colonial rule the country would today be part of Indonesia rather than an independent state.

"It's a matter of insistence and perseverance on that which is best for us", Gusmão said of ongoing efforts to teach and promote the use of Portuguese, a major focus of aid from Lisbon.


East Timor: Lisbon minister oversees launch of media, water projects

Dili, Nov. 11 (Lusa) - Senior Portuguese Minister Nuno Morais Sarmento held cooperation talks with East Timorese Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri Tuesday and participated in the launching of new aid programs.

Among other initiatives, Alkatiri and Morais Sarmento attended the inauguration in Dili of a new TV studio donated by Portugal's state RTP television.

The ceremony was accompanied by the signing of a broad cooperation agreement between the two countries' public TV and radio broadcasters, providing Dili some USD 150,000 in additional aid.

Morais Sarmento, Lisbon's minister to the presidency of the council of ministers and senior media official, told Lusa he had also agreed with Alkatiri on a Portuguese-financed project to provide running water on the outer island of Atauro.

He said the euros 1 million project, to begin in January, would supply water to more than half the 9,000 people of Atauro, one of East Timor's poorest regions, by the end of next year.

Officials also signed an agreement Tuesday for Lisbon to provide varied "technical aid" to Dili's official gazette, the "Jornal da República", to make it fully autonomous.

Morais Sarmento, who ends a four-day visit Wednesday, praised "the advances and progress" observed in East Timor during his stay.

The fledgling country's achievements since independence nearly 18 months ago represented an "extraordinarily positive" example of nation building, he said, despite the many difficulties Dili continues to face.


East Timor: Portuguese UN battalion taking school materials to needy children

Vila Real, Portugal, Nov. 11 (Lusa) - The last Portuguese battlion rotating into UN peacekeeping duties in East Timor will go armed, in part, with school materials to distribute among the country's children.

Businesses and schools in the northern cities of Vila Real and Viseu presented the more than 500-strong battalion, dubbed Agrupamento Hotel, with a load of pencils, erasers, notebooks and other school materials on Monday.

East Timor's ambassador to Portugal, Pascolea Barreto, who attended the ceremony in Vila Real, applauded the symbolic initiative, saying it would "strengthen the bonds between the two peoples".

Noting that Portuguese is a language of instruction through the fourth grade in East Timor, Barreto said she hoped that all her people would speak the language "within 10 years or so".

The relief battalion, which heads to East Timor in January, will be the last Portuguese contingent to serve as UN peacekeepers prior to the scheduled end of the UN mission in June.



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