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E. Timor visit reasserts US Pacific role: Clinton

DILI -- Hillary Clinton, the first-ever U.S. secretary of state to visit East Timor, said Thursday that her presence in one of the poorest nations in Asia sent “a clear, unmistakable message” that the United States would remain a Pacific power.

Clinton, on a visit to encourage self-sufficiency in Asia's youngest nation where China is playing a growing role, was welcomed by throngs of cheering schoolchildren on the streets and then by barefoot dancers as she visited the Chinese-built presidential palace in Dili.

In the highlight of her half-day visit, Clinton toured a coffee processing plant that was launched with U.S. assistance during East Timor's turbulent era and now employs some 4,000 people who at around US$8 a day earn twice the minimum wage.

I drink a lot of this,” Clinton, draped in a traditional “tais” scarf, said as she sipped the strong brew at the Timor Coffee Cooperative to the sound of beans falling into bags destined for Starbucks in Seattle.

Clinton's visit comes only a few months after the impoverished nation marked a decade since independence from Indonesia and as U.N. peacekeepers — the current contingent deployed during a violent political crisis in 2006 — prepare to leave at the end of the year.

“We take our lead from the government and people of this country to be as helpful as we can in supporting them in developing the kind of future they deserve,” she said.

Clinton, meeting with Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao, reiterated the theme of her Asia trip, saying that her first-ever visit to East Timor sent “a clear, unmistakable message that the United States has been, is and will remain a resident Pacific power.”

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