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Annan Thanks Australia For Role In East Timor

Secretary-General thanks Australia for taking lead in helping East Timor

and...see below...

East Timor under full military control of United Nations

21 February -- Secretary-General Kofi Annan Monday personally thanked Australia for taking the lead in forming the multinational force that restored order to East Timor.

After anti-independence militia ran riot last September, "we could not have achieved much without the support and the leadership that the Australian Government" and people showed, Mr. Annan told journalists after meeting Australia's Prime Minister John Howard.

"Without that generosity and determination to help those in need, we couldn't have made it," Mr. Annan added.

"It is almost a record that a UN force is able to go down within two weeks of a crisis." That force was deployed quickly, the Secretary-General said, thanks to "the leadership, the organization, the professionalism of the Australian army and its leadership. And I want to thank Australia and all the other countries that joined in the force to bring calm to East Timor."

Asked about the possibility of a future UN rapid deployment force, Mr. Annan recalled that some Member States had originated a scheme under which each of them would develop high-readiness units, adding that such a force would be "essential" for future UN operations.

Monday was the first day of the Secretary-General's official visit to Australia -- his first. He arrived there from East Timor.

In addition to the Prime Minister, he met Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, the former Prime Minister and current Chairman of CARE Australia, Malcolm Fraser, and other Government members and politicians.

East Timor under full military control of United Nations

21 February -- Troops in the western section of East Timor were handed over today from the International Force in East Timor (INTERFET) to the United Nations, bringing the entire territory under the military control of the UN.

At a ceremony in the southwestern town of Suai, INTERFET commander Major General Peter Cosgrove and UN peacekeeping commander Lieutenant General Jaime de los Santos said that the western part of the territory was the "most complex of the country."

"This is the most critical sector," Mr. de los Santos told the troops. "You are on the border - you have to develop a rapport with the [Indonesian army]."

Brigadier Duncan Lewis, the new commander of Sector West, added that the militia still posed something of a threat in the area, and was advising his troops to "walk and talk softly but carry a big stick."

The western part of the territory - which currently hosts some 2,000 troops - was the last to be transferred to the authority of the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET), after the eastern and central sections and the enclave of Oecussi. The international force, led by Australia, will cease to exist on 23 February, when it will be formally replaced by the UNTAET peacekeeping force.

In other news, World Bank President James Wolfensohn, independence leader Xanana Gusmão and the head of UNTAET, Mr. Sergio Vieira de Mello, have signed an agreement that will result in the disbursement of $21.5 million over the next two and a half years, the majority of which - $18 million - will be released as community grants. The remainder will be used for cultural heritage projects and civil society development.

"The signature of this project today is perhaps the best concrete demonstration that no one wishes to impose programmes designed abroad on the Timorese people," Mr. Vieira de Mello told the press after signing the agreement. He said that the main purpose of this first large-scale programme was to establish local councils that will identify areas in which the World Bank and the United Nations could provide support together.

He also explained that the elections of the representatives who will allocate the funds at the community level should not be confused with political elections, which will come later, once the emergency phase is over.


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