Subject: LUSA: Lisbon 's Aid Praised in Graduation of First Self-defense Battalion

03 Dec 01 12:36 East Timor: Lisbon 's Aid Praised in Graduation of First Self-defense Battalion

The first battalion of East Timor´s fledgling Self-Defense Force held a graduation ceremony at the Metinaro training base outside Dili at the weekend with the presence of United Nations, East Timorese and diplomatic officials.

The 600-strong force is expected to be deployed early next year in eastern areas of the territory, the zone most distant from the Indonesian border, where UN peacekeepers will remain primarily responsible for security.

At the ceremony, Brigadier-General Taur Matan Ruak, the defense force chief, praised Portugal for its aid in preparing the battalion, which was trained by a 10-officer Portuguese team.

UN administrator Sergio Vieira de Mello noted that Portugal´s military aid had so far been rendered exclusively on a bilateral basis, expressing hope that soon the Lisbon-headquartered Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries (CPLP) would provide "technical- military cooperation".

Portuguese Ambassador Pedro Moitinho de Almeida applauded the transformation underway of the former FALINTIL guerrillas into a regular self-defence force.

The ambassador underlined that six Portuguese Navy instructors were currently training 50 East Timorese and that two patrol boats promised by Lisbon should arrive in Dili "within days".

SAS -Lusa-

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