Subject: Lusa: On departure, Portuguese peacekeepers donate euros 16 Mn equipment

East Timor: On departure, Portuguese peacekeepers donate euros 16 Mn equipment

Dili, June 9 (Lusa) - Portugal's departing United Nations peacekeeping force donated more than euros 16 million worth of non- lethal equipment Wednesday to East Timor.

After the ceremony formalizing the donation, Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri praised the successive battalions of Portuguese troops who served the UN in East Timor since 1999 as those who "most mixed with and helped" his people.

Alkatiri said his government would set up an "autonomous institution" to manage the use of the Portuguese donation, an array of non-lethal equipment valued at euros 16.3 million, and other similar gifts.

The donation includes 91 vehicles, spare parts office and health- care materials, water purification units, and communications equipment.

"Thank you for this further gesture of solidarity", the prime minister said. "But thank you above all for the professional manner in which the Portuguese battalions, particularly this last one, has carried out its mission here".

Of all the UN peacekeeping forces, Alkatiri added, the Portuguese were those who most went beyond their UN defense and security mandate to "assume other functions in aiding the people".

The donation protocol was signed by Portuguese Ambassador Rui Quartin Santos and Planning and Finance Minister Maria Madalena Boavida in the presence of East Timorese dignitaries and UN and foreign diplomats.

The ceremony took place at the headquarters of Portugal's Oriental Battalion in Dili.

As Portugal has gradually pruned back its peacekeeping force in tandem with other participants in the reduced UNMISET mission, Lisbon has also been turning over its military installations to the East Timorese government.

Portugal's remaining 253 peacekeepers were scheduled to return home Thursday after a five-month stint in Lisbon's former Asian territory.


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