Subject: Asahi: Gusmao seeks help, hopes SDF will stay

Also: East Timor urges Japan to continue aid

Gusmao seeks help, hopes SDF will stay By TSUTOMU YAMASHITA, The Asahi Shimbun

East Timor President Xanana Gusmao called Wednesday for continued Japanese help in building the newly independent nation.

In an exclusive interview with The Asahi Shimbun, Gusmao said he welcomed the presence of Self-Defense Forces as part of United Nations-led peacekeeping operations and said he hoped they would extend their stay.

He stressed that the country remains fragile, with political instability, including a shaky relationship with Jakarta, which ruled the territory for 24 years.

He added that East Timor needs continued assistance from the international community.

Calling it the ``world's youngest state,'' Gusmao said his nation is still in the transition to peace even though it became independent in 2002.

``Our country faces many challenges, such as a lot of unemployed youths and political conflicts,'' he said, adding that stability is gradually taking root.

Gusmao met Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on Monday and expressed his gratitude for the presence of the 400 SDF members.

SDF members now account for the second-largest group among PKOs in East Timor.

Gusmao also asked the government to extend the SDF stay.

In January, the United Nations announced plans to scale back the number of troops.

Gusmao reportedly told Koizumi that PKO troops are still needed because of continuing domestic threats to public peace and security.

Touching on Japan's economic aid and cooperation, Gusmao said: ``We need help from the Japanese.''

He added: ``The unemployment rate is high. Many new university-graduates don't have jobs. The government offers public services, but cannot offer jobs to everybody.

``We want Japan and Japanese companies to invest more in oil and resources to create jobs for frustrated young people,'' he said.

Gusmao added: ``Offshore petroleum and gas reserves around our country are exported to Japan. Now Japanese companies have constructed pipe lines in oil fields and other resources facility in neighboring Australia. We do not envy, but Australia is lucky to get Japanese benefits.'' (IHT/Asahi: February 26,2004) (02/26)


East Timor urges Japan to continue aid

East Timor's president has urged Japan to continue helping rebuild the world's youngest nation following more than two decades of fighting for independence from Indonesia.

"It is important that Japan continues its support," President Xanana Gusmao told a news conference after arriving for a four-day visit.

"Japan has built schools, hospitals and job training facilities. Japanese aid does not cover all necessary areas but it covers important parts," said the 56-year-old president, who spoke in Portuguese.

In 1999, Japan pledged $US130 million in aid with an additional 60 million dollars on offer from 2002 to 2005.

Mr Gusmao later met with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi who told him Tokyo was planning to approve an allocation of 500 million yen ($US4.6 million) in aid this week, a foreign ministry official said.

The aid is part of the previously announced $US60 million, the official said.

Apart from the monetary contribution, Japan has sent some 400-600 ground troops to East Timor since 1999 as part of a United Nations mission to build bridges and roads.

Mr Gusmao thanked Mr Koizumi for Japan's contribution to the UN mission, saying he hoped Tokyo would continue its support for building infrastructure, the official said.

Last week, United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan presented a report to the UN Security Council to extend the global body's support mission for one more year. The mission's current mandate is set to expire on May 20.

East Timor became independent on May 20, 2002, but a UN mission stayed on to help the nation through its infancy.

East Timor was Asia's poorest country upon independence. Half the population lacks any formal education, youth unemployment is high and two out of five people live on less than 55 cents a day.

The visit is Mr Gusmao's fourth to Japan since becoming president in April 2002.

-- AFP

Last Update: Monday, February 23, 2004. 9:53pm (AEDT)

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