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Peacekeepers A Beacon Of Hope, Says PM

New Zealand's soldiers going to East Timor will be a beacon of hope for a beleaguered, weary people, Prime Minister Jenny Shipley said today.

"The people of East Timor are looking to you and your counterparts from Australia and many other nations to restore order and convince them that one day they will be able to get on with their normal lives. It will be a hard, hard job, demanding courage, persistence and skill."

Mrs Shipley said the soldiers going to join the Australian-led United Nations peacekeeping force continued a long and proud New Zealand tradition.

"You stand on the shoulders of the brave Kiwi soldiers who have gone before you to battlefields, war zones and fields of fragile peace for generation after generation.

"Know also that you go with the support of New Zealanders – both the general public and, especially, your loved ones. They face a long, difficult wait at home. New Zealanders thoughts will be with them too, just as they will be with you.

"It is a long time since any New Zealand operation abroad has gathered such wholehearted multi-party support. The strong expression of confidence expressed by Parliament last week will be important to you in the months to come.

"I wish the world were a more perfect place, where dangerous operations like your mission were not necessary. But the world is not perfect, and sometimes it is necessary to make a hard-won peace and then endeavour to keep it.

"We are proud of you as a well trained, well equipped professional force authorised to defend yourselves and those you have a duty to protect.

"New Zealanders thank you for your bravery, your courage and the persistence and patience that will be required of you in the coming months.

"Know that you go with the blessings and good wishes of New Zealanders. You face a challenging job. Face it with pride," Mrs Shipley said.

ENDS

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