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Meeting On Future East Timor Defence Force

The Minister for Defence, John Moore, today announced that Australia would make a substantial commitment to the development of an East Timor Defence Force.

Mr Moore's announcement follows a multinational meeting held in Dili from 21-23 November to discuss international support for the development of a defence force for East Timor.

The meeting was hosted by the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET), with active participation by East Timorese representatives.

It was attended by representatives of Australia, Portugal, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, the United States, the United Kingdom and Brazil. UNTAET and East Timor have invited Indonesia to attend the final plenary session of the meeting, which is being held early today.

"As a near neighbour, Australia has an interest in the development of an independent East Timor which is secure, stable, democratic and able to offer its citizens a better future," Mr Moore said.

"A key element of preparing East Timor for independence is to give it the ability to provide for its own defence. The development and final shape of the force would have to take into account East Timor's other development priorities and needs. By necessity, the defence force would be modest."

Through UNTAET, Australia has offered an in-principle program of defence assistance with a potential value of up to $26 million over five years.

"The development of East Timor's national defence force will be a major and complex task involving the ongoing collaboration of many nations in close partnership with UNTAET and the East Timorese," said Mr Moore.

"I have been encouraged by the participation of significant regional countries in the Dili meeting and their in-principle commitment to the process. Australia also will be working closely with Portugal, reflecting our shared commitment to assisting East Timor."

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