Subject: AU: Tiny nation vulnerable to terrorists: Ramos Horta

The Weekend Australian

July 24, 2004 Saturday All-round Country Edition

Tiny nation vulnerable to terrorists: Ramos Horta

Mark Dodd

EAST Timor, the world's newest nation and one of the poorest, is also one of the most vulnerable to terrorist infiltration, according to its Foreign Minister, Jose Ramos Horta.

Mr Ramos Horta has called on Canberra to help develop an indigenous counter-terrorist capability. "We are very conscious of the terrorist threat, but we need assistance," he said in Darwin this week. "We need training for intelligence gathering." Mr Ramos Horta said several East Timorese intelligence agents would be sent for training at an Australian-funded counter-terrorism facility at Semarang in Indonesia.

However, he remained concerned about the vulnerability of East Timor's sea border, which is routinely exploited by smugglers and illegal fishermen from the region.

His worries follow a visit last weekend to the half-island nation by David Irvine, head of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service.

According to a Dili-based Western security analyst, ASIS has been actively engaged in an advisory role in East Timor for more than a year.

"ASIS guys have been coming here for at least a year training the East Timorese," said the analyst, who asked not to be named. "This relationship is much more developed than you think." East Timor has four intelligence-gathering agencies, including a military intelligence unit.

Mr Ramos Horta also confirmed Malaysia's growing role in training East Timorese security forces.

Malaysia recently handed over 180 Heckler and Koch assault rifles to a newly formed police rapid deployment force.

Formally known as the Police Reserve Unit, the police commandos began training last month and are eventually expected to be deployed along the country's 240km border with Indonesian West Timor.

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