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Bishop Nascimento upbeat on future of Portuguese

Lusa - September 7, 2004

Lisbon – East Timor's religious leader, Catholic Bishop Basilio do Nascimento, is optimistic over efforts, backed by Portugal, to re-introduce the use of Portuguese in his newly independent country.

"Currently, the percentage of people speaking Portuguese is minimal, following 24 years of [Indonesian] occupation, but I believe this is a battle that will be won in the future", Bishop do Nascimento said Monday after a meeting with Portuguese President Jorge Sampaio.

Portugal's aid programs in its former Asian colony are strongly centered on education and promotion of the Portuguese language.

The Timorese prelate is in Portugal on a private visit for what he described as "health reasons and to rest".

The bishop of Baucau explained his meeting with Sampaio, which lasted more than one hour, as an encounter between "friends" to discuss the problems faced by East Timor.

He said the Timorese, who gained their independence from Jakarta two years ago, now lived in a "climate of peace" but faced "economic difficulties", given the slow pace of reconstruction following the scorched-earth campaign that accompanied Indonesia's withdrawal.