East Timor leader appeals for aid

Gusmao visited the UN headquarters in Geneva Keystone

The president of East Timor, Xanana Gusmao, has called on international organisations in Geneva to provide aid for his impoverished nation.

This content was published on March 15, 2006 - 16:00

Gusmao held talks on Wednesday with the executive committee of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, ahead of a visit to the Swiss capital, Bern.

Gusmao said he requested aid from the Geneva-based International Labour Organisation, and held talks with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour.

Gusmao is the first elected president of East Timor, which gained independence from Indonesia in 2002.

During his visit to Geneva he appealed for national reconciliation in his new country, and with neighbouring Indonesia.

He told a news conference that he saw little point in pressing Jakarta to try military and other officials accused of atrocities in East Timor before it became independent.

"We have to live with Indonesia. We share a border," he said. "As an independent country, we must help them to consolidate the [democratic] process."

Gusmao will travel to Bern on Thursday for talks with Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey and this year's president, Moritz Leuenberger.

Annual report

His visit to Switzerland comes only one week after the UN Development Programme (UNDP) issued its 2006 National Human Development Report for the impoverished country.

The report said the UN's newest member state still ranked below all Southeast Asian countries on the human-development index, and that half the population lacked safe drinking water.

Life expectancy is 55.5 years of age, the report added, saying there were no signs of it improving.

The authors of the report said hope lay with an agreement signed with Australia at the beginning of this year giving the go-ahead for oil and gas projects in the Timor Sea.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

UNDP report 2006 on East Timor:
Half of the population lacks safe drinking water.
Infant mortality - 60 of 1,000 infants die before first birthday.
Life expectancy - 55.5 years.
Per capita yearly income - $370.

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