Subject: DPA: Australia underwrites East Timor's survival

Deutsche Presse-Agentur

June 19, 2003

Australia underwrites East Timor's survival

Sydney - Prime Minister John Howard on Thursday gave East Timor an open-ended commitment of military support.

He said Australian troops might stay on in the world's newest country "for years".

Of the 2,800 United Nations peacekeepers in the former Portuguese colony around 1,000 are Australian.

"Having invested so much into helping the people of East Timor we don't want to pull out prematurely so that the country then comes under unacceptable strain and perhaps collapses," Howard told Australia's ABC Radio. "That would be the worst possible outcome."

Last month East Timor marked its first full year as a sovereign country.

Indonesia gave up almost a quarter of a century of sometimes brutal occupation in 1999, the same year Australia led an international force that entered East Timor to stop the violence that followed a referendum on independence.

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