Dec 10, 2009
Australia to cut E.Timor troops
Australian soldiers disarming a man in Dili. Australian Defence Minister John Faulkner said 250 officers would be brought home by February 2010. -- PHOTO: AP
SYDNEY - AUSTRALIA said on Thursday that it would reduce its troop commitment in East Timor by more than a third following a prolonged period of stability in the tiny nation.
Defence Minister John Faulkner said 250 officers would be brought home by February 2010, bringing Australia's commitment to the UN-backed International Stabilisation Force (ISF) to 400 out of a new total of 550.
'The decision to reduce the number of (Australian) personnel recognises the ongoing calm security situation in East Timor and the efforts of the government and people of East Timor to uphold this,' Faulkner said in a statement.
He said security in the fledgling country had remained stable since rebel attacks on its president and prime minister in February 2008, and 100 troops had been withdrawn in January this year with 'no significant effect'.
The ISF has been deployed to the former Indonesian territory since factional fighting in 2006 left at least 37 people dead. It peaked early last year at more than 1,000 troops after rebel soldiers staged armed attacks on President
Jose Ramos-Horta and Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao. East Timor won formal independence in 2002, three years after a UN-backed referendum that saw an overwhelming vote to break away from Indonesia following a 24-year occupation. -- AFP