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East Timorese foreign minister to visit NZ

East Timor Cabinet Member for Foreign Affairs, Dr Jose Ramos Horta, will visit New Zealand next week, acting Foreign Minister Jim Sutton said today.

A Nobel Peace Prize laureate and long-time international campaigner for East Timor independence, Dr Ramos Horta is now directing East Timor's foreign policy and the development of a fledgling East Timorese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Mr Sutton said Dr Ramos Horta was very welcome in New Zealand.

"It will be a great pleasure to see him here as Foreign Minister for his soon-to-be independent nation.

"The timing of his visit is particularly good in advance of a meeting of international aid donors to East Timor in Canberra next week and in the lead up to East Timor's legislative elections scheduled for the end of August."

Mr Sutton said Dr Ramos Horta's assessment of his country's current and future needs would provide an important backdrop for New Zealand's ongoing military and development assistance to East Timor.

"The New Zealand Government will also be interested to hear at first hand his priorities for East Timor in the region and internationally."

During his two-day visit to New Zealand, Dr Ramos Horta will meet with Prime Minister Helen Clark, Deputy Prime Minister Jim Anderton, Foreign Affairs Minister Phil Goff, Defence Minister Mark Burton and Associate Foreign Minister Matt Robson.

He will also have discussions with NGOs and East Timor solidarity groups, and Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade officials.

His only public appearance is at a function hosted by the Asia 2000 Foundation at 5.30pm on Tuesday 5 June, where he will talk about East Timor's future.

ENDS

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