Subject: East Timor leader wants peacekeepers to shift focus

East Timor leader wants peacekeepers to shift focus

Radio New Zealand

Posted at 5:44pm on 28 Jan 2008

East Timor's Prime Minister wants international peacekeepers in his country to move away from security duties and focus instead on mentoring and training.

There are almost 800 New Zealand and Australian troops working on security duties in East Timor.

Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao thanked the troops for their efforts during a lunch at the barracks in Dili on Sunday.

He said he was happy with the current number of troops, because it is the quality of the soldiers that counts, not the quantity.

"I believe that right now you can see you can get the difference of the environment. When they came it was so difficult, now it's so calm," he said.

Australian Brigadier General John Hutcheson agreed the environment in East Timor was becoming safer, allowing troops to shift focus towards community engagement and repairing East Timor's infrastructure.

However, Brigadier Hutcheson said there was still a need for the International Stabilisation Forces to remain in East Timor to guarantee that peace prevailed.

UN to address food shortage

The United Nations and aid agencies would meet in East Timor this week to discuss how to manage food shortages brought on by recent monsoonal storms and locust infestations.

The ABC reports East Timor was facing another food shortage after a series of monsoonal storms, floods and landslides that have killed three people and caused problems in 11 out of 13 districts.

A UN spokesman said one solution being considered is food-for-work in areas that are experiencing food shortages. He said the agencies would also look at longer-term controls.

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