Subject: RT: Australia holds tickertape parade for Timor forces.

AUSTRALIA: Australia holds tickertape parade for Timor forces.

SYDNEY, April 19 (Reuters) - Thousands of cheering Australians lined Sydney streets on Wednesday to salute armed forces personnel who served in the multinational intervention force sent to restore order to East Timor last year.

Lunchtime crowds lined the main street of Sydney's central business district to cheer the 1,700 servicemen and women of Australia's army, navy, air force and police while office workers rained tickertape on them from above.

Police said about 55,000 people watched as members of the force known as INTERFET marched from Circular Quay near the city's picturesque harbour to Sydney Town Hall, where they were met by Prime Minister John Howard and Lord Mayor Frank Sartor.

"Today in a very public fashion, Australians got to show their thanks and great respect to the men and women of INTERFET and the Australian Federal Police," Howard told the crowd.

"They followed in a great Australian military defend what is right, the right to live in freedom and peace."

At the head of the parade was Major General Peter Cosgrove, the phlegmatic Vietnam veteran who commanded INTERFET troops during the five-month operation.

Howard presented the keys of the city to Cosgrove, who took them on behalf of the Australian element of his INTERFET forces.

INTERFET grew to 11,000 troops from around the world at the height of the operation, with 6,500 personnel from Australia.

The U.N.-backed INTERFET was sent to East Timor last September to restore peace and security after East Timorese voted overwhelmingly to end Indonesia's often brutal 24-year rule of the former Portuguese colony.

Pro-Jakarta militias plunged East Timor into chaos with a violent rampage after the August 30 ballot.

Cosgrove and most of his INTERFET force left East Timor in February after he handed over to a U.N. peacekeeping force which will guide East Timor on its way to independence.

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