Subject: NZPA: Improved security in Timor sees NZ withdraw platoon

Also AFP: New Zealand cuts back military deployment in East Timor

Improved security in Timor sees NZ withdraw platoon

11.00pm Monday August 28, 2006

A platoon of New Zealand troops is being withdrawn from East Timor because the security situation there has improved, says Prime Minister Helen Clark.

A full company and the platoon of 44 personnel were sent to the tiny Pacific country after violence broke out in the capital Dili three months ago.

They joined an international peacekeeping force led by Australia, and Helen Clark said Australia and Malaysia were also drawing down their contingents.

The United Nations Security Council on Saturday decided to set up a new mission for East Timor, including 1608 police and a smaller military contingent, to stay for at least six months and help steer the country to security and fresh elections.

New Zealand also sent police to East Timor in July for a one-off, three-month-long deployment.

"Should the transition to the UN police component take place in that three-month period, our police will come under their command," Helen Clark said.

"We will then consider what further role we might wish to take in the UN force, and whether it would be patrolling or of a training nature.

"We have been holding that thin blue line while the UN got itself organised with a full mission."

Helen Clark said there were a range of opinions within the UN about the military component of the new mission.

Some wanted it to come under UN command while Australia was arguing for a continuation of the present arrangement, with the taskforce working closely with the UN but Australian-led.

"We have always been comfortable with the UN Secretary-General's recommendations for a blue helmet military component but that we need to work together for a consensus."


Agence France Presse

August 28, 2006 Monday 6:36 AM GMT

New Zealand cuts back military deployment in East Timor

WELLINGTON, Aug 28 2006

New Zealand will withdraw a platoon of 44 troops from East Timor because the security situation has improved in the impoverished nation, Prime Minister Helen Clark said Monday.

About 200 troops have been in East Timor following violence which broke out in May and left at least 21 people dead and resulted in the deployment of some 3,200 Australian-led foreign peacekeepers.

New Zealand Defence Minister Phil Goff added that more patrolling and security duties were being taken over by foreign and local police as the situation becomes calmer.

"We will still need to retain enough troops in East Timor to provide support to the police should it be required and assist with other logistical and support tasks. This group will consist of up to 161," Goff said.

The returning personnel will be home by the end of August.

"We will maintain a presence in Timor Leste until stability and security is at the point where the presence of international security forces is no longer necessary."

The UN Security Council Friday approved a Japanese resolution that establishes a mission for at least six months including up to 1,608 police personnel and up to 34 military liaison and staff officers.

The military component of the mission still has to be finalised because although many countries want a military force under UN command, Australia wants to retain control of a joint military force.

Clark said New Zealand supported a UN-led military force but said any decision would have to reached through consensus.

"The broader UN mission does suggest the UN is taking seriously the need to start again with the nation-building in East Timor," she told a press conference.

At least 150,000 people in the nation of about one million remain in makeshift camps, still too uncertain of the security situation to return to their homes, according to UN estimates.

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