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East Timor needs 'several more years' of foreign help: UN

Agence France Presse - April 3, 2009

Dili – The tiny impoverished nation of East Timor will need several more years of international assistance to ensure stability and tackle poverty, the head of the United Nations mission here said Friday.

Despite recent calm, East Timor's "development needs are still massive and continued outside assistance is required for several years," Atul Khare told a meeting of foreign donors including overseas governments and the World Bank.

Khare urged countries affected by the global economic crisis to continue their assistance to East Timor and warned aid would be necessary to keep the country on track well beyond the expiry of the UN mission's mandate in 2010.

Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao said building nationwide infrastructure would be key to lifting Timorese out of poverty and that effective security and democratic institutions were needed to prevent a return to instability.

"We are committed to closing the chapter of Timor Leste's history where we were seen as a country that is too fragile and in a post-conflict situation," Gusmao said, referring to the country by its official name.

"Today we want to start a new chapter, capitalising on our people's courage and determination, in order to put Timor Leste on a safe path towards development, the path we chose ten years ago."

East Timor, which won independence in 2002 after a bloody 24-year occupation by Indonesia, is one of the world's poorest countries with around half of its one million people living on less than 88 cents a day.

The country has been propped up by a UN mission backed by hundreds of foreign police and troops since 2006, after chaotic fighting among police and military factions and street gangs killed 37 people and displaced 100,000.