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NZ Peacekeepers To Go To East Timor

New Zealand will contribute an initial force of around 420 personnel to the international peacekeeping force to be assembled in East Timor, Prime Minister Jenny Shipley and Defence Minister Max Bradford announced today following a special Cabinet meeting.

Mrs Shipley and Mr Bradford said the New Zealand force could leave New Zealand for Darwin as soon as this weekend.

"The Cabinet has also decided to approve for deployment if necessary an additional 300-400 personnel that will result in a full Battalion of New Zealanders committed to East Timor duties. Such a battalion deployment would include our field surgical team, and additional helicopters," the Prime Minister said.

This would see New Zealand's contribution to the UN-sanctioned INTERFET Force increase to around 800 personnel.

The initial force includes a 100-strong infantry company, four Iroquois helicopters, 25 Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) and supporting personnel. It will be transported to Australia on RNZAF 727s, Hercules and United States Galaxy or Starlifter aircraft. Final deployment into East Timor will depend on UN and Australian Defence Force headquarters decisions, the Ministers said.

Mrs Shipley said the peacekeeping force would continue New Zealand s strong tradition of helping those who were in need of protection.

"The force's initial task will be to help ensure peace returns to East Timor to enable humanitarian assistance to be provided to those in need.

“New Zealand has taken a leading role in urging Indonesia to accept an international force to restore peace and security.

“The rapid deployment of a capable force of New Zealand men and women underlines New Zealand?s firm willingness to ensure the expressed will of the East Timorese people is realised,” she said.

"The deployment of troops to East Timor will see New Zealanders once again taking up the baton to help those in need, and to safeguard the democratic process, human rights and freedom," the Prime Minister said.

Cabinet has approved the rapid deployment of:

· An infantry company, four RNZAF Iroquois helicopters with support elements, including 25 APCs (around 420 personnel) for 18 months.

· Two C130 Hercules aircraft, with around 50 personnel, for three months. One of these aircraft has already been operating out of Darwin.

· The Navy tanker HMNZS Endeavour and a Navy frigate for three months (more than 215 personnel).

The 420-strong force, which can be sustained in East Timor for 18 months, is expected to cost about $50 million of new expenditure to deploy.

The cost would increase to about $65 million to $75 million if the force grew to battalion size.

Participating countries will carry the cost of the initial international force, but are expected to recover a significant proportion of later costs from the United Nations.

The United Nations has stated that the INTERFET force would be deployed for a maximum of four months and then be replaced by a follow-on UN peacekeeping operation as part of a UN Transitional Administration in East Timor.

Mr Bradford said that while the national command of the NZ Force in East Timor would reside in New Zealand, the force would be fully integrated into the INTERFET military command structure.

New Zealand Chief of Defence Force, Air Marshal Carey Adamson will exercise national command of the New Zealand Force East Timor through Land Commander Brigadier Lou Gardiner. Brigadier Gardiner will remain in New Zealand.

The United Nations authorised international force is the largest since the UN intervention in Bosnia, where New Zealand was also represented.

The New Zealand frigate Te Kaha is currently stationed off Darwin and will soon be joined by the Navy tanker HMNZS Endeavour.

Mr Bradford said the frigate HMNZS Canterbury would be deployed to release HMNZS Te Kaha to proceed to the Gulf for Multinational Interception Force duties.

HMNZS Canterbury is currently in Auckland taking on fuel and supplies.

Mr Bradford said the call by Government for New Zealand’s Defence Force to move to operational capability, had been met with professional skill by service personnel.

“I have great confidence in the standard of training and preparedness of our armed forces staff.

“They are dedicated and professional men and women stepping into an uncertain and volatile environment. We wish them success and a safe return,” Mr Bradford said.


ENDS

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