Subject: AU: UN 'should remain in E Timor'

The Australian

UN 'should remain in E Timor'

By Andrew McGarry


AUSTRALIA wants the UN to maintain some presence in East Timor when the peacekeeping mandate runs out in May.

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer indicated the government's position during trilateral talks with Indonesia and East Timor, and left open the possibility Australia could start maritime security patrols in the Timor Sea.

A memorandum of understanding on counter-terrorism between Australia and East Timor was signed during the talks and Australia announced a $40million package to provide training for East Timor's police force.

The police initiative, funded for four years, will involve the Australian Federal Police training the East Timorese police.

Mr Downer said Australia's commitment of 1000 peacekeepers in East Timor would fall to 470 by the end of the year, with the entire peacekeeping force likely to have returned by mid-2004.

"We would like some continuing UN presence there in the form of a small civilian presence - some UN police and some military under the auspices of the UN as well," Mr Downer said.

The US and others on the UN Security Council feel the organisation's presence should end next year.

"We are now working trying to persuade them there should be some UN presence there but obviously very substantially smaller than the current presence," Mr Downer said.

East Timor foreign minister Jose Ramos-Horta welcomed the training but said he wished the UN would stay.

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