Subject: AP: E. Timor Border Patrol To Replace Intl Peacekeepers

Received from Joyo Indonesia News

East Timor Border Patrol To Replace Intl Peacekeepers

JAKARTA, March 28 (AP)--East Timor has formed a new border patrol unit to replace international peacekeepers, the U.N. said Friday - a sign that the military is assuming greater responsibility for security in the world's newest nation.

The troops will guard the border with the neighboring Indonesian province of East Nusa Tenggara, home to dozens of pro-Indonesian militias who are hostile to East Timor's recent independence from Indonesia's brutal 24-year rule.

The militias have been blamed for a spate of recent attacks and robberies in East Timor. But political and economic relations between the neighboring countries have improved significantly during the past year.

"As more and more Border Patrol Unit officers complete their training, the peacekeeping force is stepping back from the border and redeploying forces into other areas," the U.N. said in a statement.

A 3,000-strong international peacekeeping force was deployed in East Timor in 1999, following the bloody aftermath of the half-island's independence vote. The peacekeepers will be withdrawn in stages within two years.

East Timor gained full independence in May last year, after a period of transitional rule by the U.N., which still helps in the running of the country.

On Friday, an Australian battalion patrolling the border was redeployed to Ermera and Liquica cities in the western part of East Timor while a Portuguese battalion will move to hill town of Baucau, about 100 kilometers east of the capital, Dili.

-Edited by Mary de Wet


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