Subject: Lusa: Budget for Armed Forces Adequate but Insignificant - Matan Ruak

also: Self-Defense Force Countdown Underway - Falintil Commander

East Timor: Budget for Armed Forces Adequate but Insignificant - Matan Ruak 7 Nov-20:54

Budget funds earmarked for the future armed forces of East Timor are adequate but "insignificant," and the focus should still be on bilateral cooperation programs, the commander of East Timor's Falintil force said on Tuesday.

Taur Matan Ruak made his comments during a session of East Timor's legislative body, the National Council, which is this week reviewing proposals to alter the 2000-2001 state budget, which took effect on July 1.

He confirmed that the first 600 recruits of the future military force should be trained in 2001, adding that a like number would join the force in 2002. A further 300 soldiers will be trained the following year, and a 1,500-strong reserve force at a later date.

Falintil was the armed wing of resistance to Indonesia's 1975- 1999 occupation of East Timor and is now based in the Aileu cantonment in the interior south of Dili.

"The budget defined for 2001 responds to our needs but is very insignificant at the comprehensive level. A meeting of donors has thus been proposed for Nov. 21, to discuss funding for development of the armed forces," Matan Ruak said.

The proposed budget changes reserve about euros 1.15 million until June 30, 2001, for creation of the "East Timorese Defense Force."

JBC -Lusa

East Timor: Self-Defense Force Countdown Underway - Falintil Commander 6 Nov-12:17

East Timor plans to begin setting up a self-defense force immediately, with recruitment expected yet this year and training to begin in 2001, the commander of the territory's former Falintil guerrillas said Monday.

Commander Matan Ruak, in comments to Portuguese journalists in Dili, said that the model for the self-defense force would likely be of a "light infantry," with some 1,500 regular troops and 1,500 reservists.

Contacts were underway with "friendly countries" to determine military aid and cooperation programs, he said, adding that Portugal and Australia had already allocated funds for the self-defense force.

Lisbon has promised dlrs 2.5 million in 2001 and Canberra dlrs 12.5 million, primarily for training, over five years.

East Timor's fledgling legislative body, the National Council, could take the first step in formalizing the creation of the force yet this week in approving the territory's 2001 budget.

Decisions on the composition and equipping of the force, in part based on a study by the Center for Defense Studies at London's King College, should also take place this month, Matan Ruak said, adding that a special donors conference was set for Nov. 21.

Of the expected 1,500 regular troops a 600-strong battalion would be drawn from among former Falintil guerrillas, who battled Indonesian occupation forces for 24 years, he said.

Matan Ruak said Falintil currently had about 1,500 people, more than 600 of whom only joined the force in 1999 after the collapse of Indonesia's Suharto regime and in the run-up to the territory's independence plebiscite.

SAS -Lusa-

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