Subject: AU: Military trainers to stay

The Australian

Some troops to stay in Timor

December 15, 2003

AUSTRALIA will leave some 50 to 60 troops to assist with training of the East Timorese military once the peacekeeping force comes home, defence chief General Peter Cosgrove said today.

He rejected suggestions that Australia could continue to deploy peacekeepers beyond the end of the United Nations mandate on May 20.

"My clear understanding of the government position on this is that when the mandate runs out May 20, as with the other troop contributing nations, we will withdraw all of the peacekeeping force and the Australia component of the peacekeeping force," he told a parliamentary committee

"There will be no more peacekeeping force.

"We have a bilateral arrangement with the East Timorese which is separate to that and which will remain extant. We have a program that will run into the future."

General Cosgrove visited Australian troops in East Timor over the weekend, opening the training centre at Metinaro in front of the President of the East Timor Parliament, Francesco Lu'Olo, and other East Timorese officials.

Both the training centre and the Platoon Commanders Course for the East Timor Defence Force form part of Australia's ongoing defence co-operation program with East Timor.

General Cosgrove said 50-60 personnel would remain in East Timor, depending on training needs at the time, once the 400 peacekeepers head home.

"While our peacekeeping force will withdraw in May when the mandate runs out, our training team and those others we have salted away in there assisting the Timorese defence force to mature will remain as long as they are needed and wanted by the East Timorese government and as long as the Australian government considered this a useful contribution," he said.

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