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East Timor: donor countries meet to raise funds for new defence force

East Timor: donor countries meet to raise funds for new defence force

The second international donor's conference of countries committed to assisting the newly formed East Timor Defence Force (ETDF) began today in Dili, under the chairmanship of the head of the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET).

The purpose of the two-day conference, is to present a progress report on the development of the ETDF and to request further assistance in structuring, developing and equipping the new force. The meeting, chaired by UNTAET chief Sergio Vieira de Mello, will focus on support for advisory services, training and logistics, and on equipment, material and financial donations.

In his opening remarks, ETDF Brigadier General Taur Matan Ruak said that the structural transformation of Falintil into the ETDF had been achieved. To the East Timorese who feared that the dissolution of Falintil would erase a symbol of East Timor's resistance, Taur Matan Ruak said, "Today, the population knows that history cannot be eliminated or re-written and that in this new political context ETDF [represents] one more step towards the building of the new nation of East Timor."

Taur Matan Ruak stressed that the ETDF would be a professional and non-partisan force that would submit itself to the democratically elected political power, and that it would not become involved in any future action of a police nature.

Last week, 247 ETDF inductees were the first graduates of a basic training course conducted in Aileu. In opening remarks at the beginning of today's conference, Mr. Vieira de Mello described the Aileu graduation as "a very emotional confirmation that things are moving forward and we are meeting our goals." The next basic training, for 348 inductees, is scheduled to begin in mid-July at the ETDF's new headquarters at Metinaro, near Dili, which will be inaugurated by the UNTAET chief tomorrow.

In other news, emergency shelters arrived in Lospalos yesterday for an estimated 44 families whose houses has been completely destroyed by the flooding that swept the area early last week, the National Emergency Operation Center (NEOC) said today. The families were living in a school and church in Lospalos town, in emergency shelters set up by UN specialized agencies and the peacekeeping force.