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Thursday, 23 November, 2000, 14:53 GMT
Australian boost to Timor army
Troops
Australians led the East Timor peace force
Australia has offered East Timor A$26m (US$13.7m) over five years for the development of its defence force.


I think this has been done with the total co-operation of Indonesia.

John Moore, Australian Defence Minister
East Timor voted overwhelmingly for independence in August 1999, ending 23 years of often brutal Indonesian rule, but sparking a rampage of violence by pro-Jakarta militia.

Australian Defence Minister John Moore said a key element of preparing East Timor for independence was to give it the ability to provide for its own defence.

"As a near neighbour, Australia has an interest in the development of an independent East Timor which is secure, stable, democratic and able to offer its citizens a better future," he said.

East Timor militiamen
Militiamen terrorised East Timor after the vote
Australian expertise could also be used to help train police officers, customs workers and border guards.

Reports say 11 other countries would also be involved in the creation of the army, including former colonial power Portugal which ruled East Timor for three centuries.

'Three-way partnership'

Mr Moore rejected suggestions that Australia's offer to help build an East Timorese army could cause friction in relations with Indonesia.

He said Jakarta recognised that the development of such a force would help create stability in the region.

"A positive step forward for stability in East Timor is good for Indonesia as it is for Australia," he said on Radio Australia.

"The future of East Timor is very bound up with good relations with both Indonesia and Australia. It's a three-way partnership."

Australia led a multinational peacekeeping force to East Timor after pro-Jakarta militias went on the rampage following the vote for independence.

It now contributes most of the troops in the territory's transitional United Nations administration.

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See also:

22 Nov 00 | Asia-Pacific
Howard condemns attack on diplomat
01 Nov 00 | Asia-Pacific
Australia probes 'Timor abuse'
17 Sep 99 | From Our Own Correspondent
East Timor: Australia's sense of guilt
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