Subject: SCMP: Lisbon in $2.3b independence offer
Date: Thu, 19 Aug 1999 00:00:04 EDT

South China Morning Post Thursday, August 19, 1999


Lisbon in $2.3b independence offer


Portugal has pledged to fund the entire budget of East Timor for at least five years - if the people vote for independence in the August 30 referendum. The cost could be up to US$300 million (HK$2.3 billion), said Jose Tadeu da Costa Sousa Soares, the Portuguese ambassador based in Bangkok.

"We will cover expenses for at least five years to a new government at the same level as the current budget provided to East Timor by Jakarta," the Far Eastern Economic Review quoted him as saying.

If independence is not achieved, "of course, they will get nothing".

In addition, Portugal had agreed to provide US$30 million in "emergency support" immediately after elections, the Review reported.

Portugal warned Indonesia yesterday that there were still big question marks over whether the vote on East Timor's future would be considered free and fair.

"Any assessment of the legitimacy of the process can only be made after the [vote] count," Foreign Minister Jaime Gama said in Lisbon.

While there had been some encouraging signs, continued violence was giving cause for concern as the former Portuguese colony prepared for its historic decision, Mr Gama said.

Armed pro-Indonesian militiamen attacked independence supporters in an East Timorese town yesterday, with residents reporting several casualties.

The attackers struck in the early morning at an office of the Council for East Timorese Resistance and a student voter education post in Maliana, a source said.

The chief of the United Nations Assistance Mission in East Timor, Ian Martin, arrived in Maliana to find the UN's 120 staff and volunteers holed up inside their compound for safety.

A UN ballot organiser, meanwhile, said ballot boxes used in the vote would be stripped of identifying marks before the count to ensure the results could not be broken down by district or village.

Resistance leader Jose Ramos Horta has warned of an economic war which could see computer viruses planted in Indonesia's banking system if Jakarta refuses to accept the outcome of the vote.

Writing in the Sydney Morning Herald yesterday, Mr Ramos Horta said 100 computer hackers in Europe, Canada and the United States were planning to attack Indonesia if an independence vote was not accepted.

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