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Clark welcomes NZ input into UN force

2000 web siteLabour Leader Helen Clark said today that Labour welcomed New Zealand making a contribution to the United Nations peace-keeping force in East Timor.

"Labour has had a long time interest in the future of East Timor. We believe that it is vital that the outcome of the ballot in East Timor is respected and the slaughter of the East Timorese is halted.

"It has been clear for quite some time that an international force would be needed to ensure that East Timor can make a speedy transition to independence and to restore order to the region.

"One of the issues this deployment highlights is the need for a re-thinking of the composition of the New Zealand Defence Force in line with the arguments presented by the Foreign Affairs and Defence Select Committee.

"New Zealand presently lacks a capacity to shift rapidly large numbers of troops. In the future, acquisitions for the Navy will need to be made taking this deficiency into account.

"It should also be noted that this New Zealand involvement requires from the Air Force the contribution of a transport and surveillance capacity. The Skyhawks will not be involved in any way. Nor, if we had them, would F-16s be involved.

"Participation in peace-keeping operations has become a central function of the New Zealand Defence Force. The sooner the force is configured so that we can speedily meet our commitments in this area the better. The East Timor involvement certainly strengthens the case made by the Quigley report for re-thinking the composition of the Defence Force," Helen Clark said.

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