Subject: LUSA: Overhaul of military starts next month, says PM

16-08-2006 12:43:00. Fonte LUSA. Notícia SIR-8258904 Temas:

East Timor: Overhaul of military starts next month, says PM

Dili, Aug. 16 (Lusa) - Prime Minister José Ramos Horta says the process of modernizing East Timor's Armed Forces will get underway after the approval next month in parliament of new defense legislation that includes conscription into the military for some of the nation's youth.

In comments to Lusa Tuesday, Ramos Horta said his government will finalize its proposals for the modernization of Timor's defense force and the necessary budget for the process by the end of this month.

The military restructuring scheme will then be approved by the Dili cabinet before being presented to lawmakers September for final voting, said Ramos Horta, adding that Timor's defense budget for the coming year would be around USD 25 million.

Among the government's proposals to revamp Timor's disaffected and divided military is the introduction of national service for the first time to supply recruits to the new nation's army.

The East Timor Defense Force (FDTL) had mainly comprised former independence guerillas before the small force's command structures unraveled after the firing of around a third of its troops by the government of former prime minister Mari Alaktiri earlier this year.

Ensuing feuds between military factions plunged the new nation into an orgy of communal violence and arson that was only brought under control with the deployment of Australian-led international peacekeepers in May.

Ramos Horta, speaking after a meeting with Timor's military high command and the country's military chief, Brig. Gen. Taur Matan Ruak, said his government also plans to boost the surveillance role of the small naval component of the defense force.

This measure, involving the acquisition of more patrol vessels, will allow Dili's maritime authorities to tackle illegal fishing, added the Timorese leader.

A day earlier, MPs in the Dili National Assembly approved the government's budget plan for the financial year beginning July 1, with 60 of the 70 lawmakers in the chamber backing the proposals.

Timor's fiscal blueprint for the coming 12 months forecasts a total USD 315 expenditure, up by 122 percent on the previous year.

Presenting the plans to MPs, Ramos Horta said: "We lost in a very short period, at a great cost, that which we built in the first years of independence", in reference to the widespread damage to property and infrastructures caused during the bloody turmoil earlier this year.

This year's budget, he added, is primarily "geared to the struggle against poverty".

CJB/JCS/EL.

Lusa

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