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E. Timor Promised Financial Support - 2002-05-15

International donors have pledged at least $360 million in financial support for East Timor in its first years as an independent nation. The pledges come just days before the former Indonesian-held territory is declared fully independent.

The World Bank says the international community has pledged between $80 and $90 million to East Timor for direct budgetary assistance. Another $280 million was also committed for development assistance.

Earlier in the week, East Timor's acting foreign minister, Jose Ramos-Horta said he expected donors to provide roughly $70 million to cover government expenditure in East Timor's first three years as an independent nation.

Mr. Ramos-Horta said he anticipated some funding for development and infrastructure projects. But he said the $280 million pledged exceeded expectations.

East Timor is just a few days away from becoming the world's newest nation. After two years of helping the Timorese form government institutions, the territory's United Nations caretakers are expected to formally withdraw on May 20.

East Timorese leaders say the country's natural resources will help it build as a sound economy. In addition to agriculture and tourism, officials are finalizing an agreement with Australia to develop oil and gas fields in the Timor Gap, the body of water separating the two countries.

The celebrations beginning this week mark the end of East Timor's long struggle for independence. Indonesia granted East Timor independence after 24 years of conflict sparked by Indonesia's invasion of the territory in 1975.