Subject: ABC: Opposition wants audit of forces' training in E Timor

September 3, 2006. 3:23pm (AEST)

Opposition wants audit of forces' training in E Timor

The Federal Opposition says the Government should undertake an urgent audit of Australian supported training programs for East Timor's military and police forces.

Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer is flying to Dili tonight and is scheduled to discuss security issues with the East Timorese President and Prime Minister tomorrow.

Mr Downer says he will use the visit to reinforce the message that the country must be responsible for its own future.

"We don't want to leave the East Timorese with a view that they don't have to take responsibility for their own country and their own actions," he said.

"They have to understand that it's not the Australian Defence Force or the Australian Federal Police or the secretary-general of the United Nations in his representative, who at the end of the day are responsible for East Timor - it's the East Timorese."

Australian troops are working with East Timorese authorities to help track down more than 50 prisoners, including rebel leader Alfredo Reinado, who escaped from a jail in Dili on Wednesday.

Labor's Kevin Rudd says Mr Downer and the Defence Minister should review the training of East Timorese forces.

"[They need] to conduct an immediate and urgent audit of the adequacy of the police and defence training programs in [East] Timor," he said.

"Plainly they've failed hugely in the past and if we're to fix this problem in the long term, those two forces have to be put back in a proper state of repair."

Border security

Meanwhile, a newspaper report in Indonesia says authorities have stepped up security at the border with East Timor to prevent Major Reinado from entering Indonesia.

"The Indonesian embassy in Dili has asked us to be alert and conduct monitoring so that Alfredo and his friends do not cross over into Indonesia," Colonel Ediwan Prabowo, who heads military security at the border, told the Koran Tempo newspaper.

Colonel Prabowo, who could not be immediately reached on Sunday, was quoted as saying that border troops were now reinforced by soldiers and police, and residents along the border had also been asked to report anyone crossing the frontier.

Major Reinado was arrested last month on charges of weapons possession.

International troops discovered the rebel leader had nine hand guns in his possession, despite promises from his group that they had surrendered all their weapons to Australian soldiers in June.

In May, Major Reinado led a group of 600 deserting troops and was accused of sparking civil unrest, including clashes among rival security forces and gang wars on the streets that killed 21 people.

The violence prompted the deployment of an Australian-led international peacekeeping force.

-ABC/AFP


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