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Government Deciding On Timorese

The question of how many displaced East Timorese New Zealand can assist is now being considered by the Government, Prime Minister Jenny Shipley said today.

"New Zealand has received a request to assist displaced people from East Timor until it is safe for them to return home," Mrs Shipley said.

The Prime Minister said that it was likely that New Zealand would indicate it could take around 300 displaced persons from East Timor.

"We must share the burden not just of securing peace for East Timor, but also of helping those who have been displaced as a result of the violence in that province.

"Officials are looking at all the issues involved in offering refuge, and a decision will be made by ministers shortly.

"The UN is keen to see that displaced Timorese do not go too far from home, as it is hoped that they will be able to return to East Timor in the near future."

The Prime Minister said New Zealand would take people on a temporary basis and they will return home once it is completely safe for them to go back.

"I know that just as we have done for the Somalians, Bosnians, Kosovars, and other groups of displaced persons, New Zealanders will welcome any East Timorese who come to New Zealand for safe haven and will look after them while they are here."

The Prime Minister travels to the South Pacific Forum in Palau on Sunday, where, along with Australian Prime Minister John Howard, she is expected to discuss the current situation in East Timor with South Pacific leaders.

ENDS

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