Subject: AU: PM promises E Timor 'adequate' troops

Also: Ramos Horta backs regional security assistance

The Australian

PM promises E Timor 'adequate' troops

By Sandra O'Malley October 12, 2006

AUSTRALIA is promising to keep "adequate" troops in East Timor, which is planning to tell the UN that it doesn't need its peacekeepers.

Prime Minister John Howard today told East Timorese Prime Minister Jose Ramos-Horta Australian troops would remain in his country to ensure its peace and stability.

"I assured the Prime Minister of Australia's ongoing commitment to the stability of his country and our willingness to maintain an adequate force level in East Timor," he said.

"Obviously in the longer term the future of this country rests on the shoulders of his fellow countrymen and women and that is something we fully understand."

Australia sent troops into Dili in May to quell deadly violence between rebels and police, devastating the tiny nation.

They've been assisted by New Zealand, Malaysia and Portugal, as well as Australian Federal Police.

Mr Howard promised that the current troop level of around 950 would remain for the moment.

"We don't have any current intention of bringing that down," he said.

"That is not to say at some time in the future, it wouldn't, on proper military advice, be appropriate to bring it down."

With the Australian-led commitment, Dr Ramos-Horta believes a UN peacekeeping force being considered for the country may not be needed.

He thanked Australia for committing its troops until at least new elections in Timor next year.

And he has told the UN that the current arrangement with Australia was working well and the UN's forces might be better used elsewhere.

"(The) bilateral force led by Australia since May till today has worked very effectively and because the UN is overstretched in so many other important conflicts ... we on the Timorese side should not push too much for a UN peacekeeping for the sake of it," Dr Ramos-Horta said.

Labor foreign affairs spokesman Kevin Rudd urged Australia not to withdraw its troops too soon.

Mr Rudd warned strife had returned to Timor earlier this year because Australia had removed its soldiers too soon.

"There was a problem in the past and that problem in part arose because Australia pulled out its troops from East Timor too early," he said.

"We believe that we cannot allow a security vacuum to occur. We need in particular to make sure that security is underpinned right though to the next East Timorese elections."



Thursday, October 12, 2006. 3:05pm (AEST)

Ramos Horta backs regional security assistance

East Timor's Prime Minister has called for more regional help on security matters rather than an automatic reliance on the United Nations.

Jose Ramos Horta says the UN is over stretched with conflicts in Lebanon and Afghanistan and countries should not call for a UN peacekeeping force for the sake of it.

Dr Ramos Horta says the assistance provided by Australia and other countries following unrest in East Timor earlier this year shows how well regional assistance programs can work.

"Maybe it sets a positive precedent elsewhere that, when you have regional countries individually willing to work with the United Nation's blessing that would assist in stabilising a particular conflict then, why not?," Dr Ramos Horta said.

A United Nations report into the violence that flared up in East Timor earlier this year is set to be released next week.

There is speculation the report will name those responsible for the violence that left thousands of people homeless.

Dr Ramos Horta says he is confident it will not lead to further unrest.

"Primarily for us it is an important report so that we do some soul searching and look at the weaknesses of the institutions, the responsibility of individuals, so that we learn and do not allow this type of situation happen again."

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