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Annan Opens Donor Conference for E. Timor - 2001-12-12

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan in Oslo to receive the Nobel Peace Prize has kicked off an international donor conference in the Norwegian capital to support the transitional government in East Timor. Several other Nobel peace laureates and East Timorese independence leaders added their weight to the appeal.

Secretary-General Annan, one day after accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, told the conference he looks forward to welcoming East Timor into the United Nations when it officially becomes independent on May 20. "We are nearing the end of a memorable journey from the heartbreak and devastation of the post election violence two years ago to the moment next May when East Timor will declare its independence and become the newest member, newest nation of the new century," he said.

Organizers of this donor conference, the fifth for East Timor in two years, say $350 million more will be needed to help the new government during its first three years of existence. Secretary-General Annan pledged that despite the crush of other pressing issues, the United Nations would not forget East Timor. He called on the 23 donor countries to make a similar commitment. "To have a lasting impact on poverty and raise living standards, development assistance will be needed for years to come," said Kofi Annan. "I urge you to remain engaged. The United Nations will be steadfast in support. There will be no precipitous exit from East Timor, but a planned steady transformation of our role."

Joining Secretary-General Annan in the appeal were World Bank President James Wolfensohn, along with East Timorese independence leaders, including Xanana Gusmao, Nobel peace prize laureate Jose Ramos-Horta, and the chief minister of the transitional government, Mari Alkatiri.

Mr. Wolfensohn told the conference that while East Timor is in many ways a broken nation, he believes that with sustained international support, it has a good chance to succeed. "The base level from which the people are starting is indeed one that reflects years of violence, years of oppression, families broken and people killed, with equipment gone, and with limited capacity in terms of governance capacity that will be needed for the country," he said. "And yet in local community, we've seen tremendous response in terms of acceptance of responsibility."

Mr. Wolfensohn said the first stages of East Timor's recently launched national development planning process have been so encouraging that plans are being made to use it as a model for the next big development challenge facing the international community - in Afghanistan.