Subject: East Timor signs military pact with Portuguese speaking countries

East Timor signs military pact


From correspondents in Dili

May 18, 2008 07:36pm

EAST Timor's army will receive military training from Portuguese-speaking countries such as Brazil and Portugal as part of a military pact signed between the countries today.

Defence ministers of eight Portuguese-speaking countries signed the military agreement in former Portuguese colony East Timor's capital, Dili, in a bid to prevent conflict in their regions.

"This is the first meeting of defence ministers and the representatives of defence ministers from Portuguese-speaking countries ... to discuss areas of cooperation where countries like Portugal and Brazil can further assist Timor Leste, particularly in the area of training," East Timor's president Jose Ramos Horta said.

"Portugal has played a very important role in the last few years together with Australia. The two countries are cooperating very well with us to enhance our defence capabilities."

East Timor, Asia's youngest nation, is still struggling to achieve stability six years after it became an independent nation.

The tiny nation plunged into instability following the dismissal of a group of 600 disgruntled soldiers from the army in 2006. The sacking triggered violence that killed 37 people and drove 150,000 from their homes.

International troops were sent in to the country of about a million people after the 2006 violence.

In February this year President Ramos-Horta and Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao survived assassination attempts blamed on rebel soldiers.

Indonesia occupied East Timor for 23 years before the former Portuguese colony voted in favour of independence in a UN-sponsored ballot in 1999.

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