Wednesday, September 3, 2008

East Timor: Peacekeepers may not be needed soon

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) - East Timor hopes international peacekeeping forces in the fledgling country can begin winding down operations by late 2009, Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao said Thursday.Speaking after talks with New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark in Wellington, Gusmao said work was under way to reform the tiny Pacific island nation's army
and police in the wake of a 2006 security crisis.Rivalry between the two agencies flared into fighting in 2006, sparking a call for help from East Timor's government that saw hundreds of foreign troops and police restore order.«While we are taking care of our two ... institutions, we are still in need, and by next year hope we can say it is already time to once again say thanks to Australian (and) New Zealand troops,» Gusmao told reporters.New Zealand has about 180 troops and 25 police in East Timor as part of an international force that includes Australian and U.N. peacekeepers.«We are happy to be supporting the Timor Leste people, a small nation, get their security situation right and then to move on with development,» Clark said.«It is certainly not our desire to be there for the long term,» (

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