Subject: Lusa: Oil wealth must be "blessing not curse" - PM Alkatiri

East Timor: Oil wealth must be "blessing not curse" - PM Alkatiri

Dili, Oct. 18 (Lusa) - East Timor`s future oil and gas revenues must have positive effects for the world`s newest nation, which is taking measures to prevent the damage that similar oil bonanzas have inflicted on other states, Prime Minster Mari Alkatiri said Monday.

Alkatiri was speaking at the launch of public consultations on Timor`s petroleum fund, set up in 2003 and modeled on a similar body created by Norway to manage Oslo`s North Sea oil revenues.

"Experiences in other countries show that oil wealth can easily become a curse instead of a blessing. So that Timor can ensure proper management of its oil revenues, it is important that our people are well informed and that we manage to implement a strategy based on the widest possible agreement".

The Dili government says it will present its final oil fund proposals to Parliament to enable the new body to be operational by July, 2005.

Separately, the United Nations` representative for Timor, Sukehiro Hasegawa, has described the security situation in the nation as "calm", although state institutions are still "fragile".

Speaking in Lisbon after a meeting with Portuguese Foreign Minister António Monteiro, Hasegawa said Timor still urgently needs international specialists in sectors including law and order and justice to rectify its institutional shortcomings.

The Japanese diplomat said that UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has proposed that the current 630-strong UNMISET mission in Timor is prolonged to May, 2005.

After this date, "the Security Council will have to decide what type of presence Timor needs", said Hasegawa, adding that the UN would continue to support Dili through its specialist agencies.

EL/VM/CJB Lusa

see Timor-Leste government launches public consultation on Petroleum Fund, 18 October


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