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First East Timor defence force battalion inaugurated as UN welcomes the move

First East Timor defence force battalion inaugurated as UN welcomes the move

In a move welcomed by the United Nations Transitional Administration (UNTAET), the first East Timor Defence Force (ETDF) battalion was formally inaugurated today at a ceremony at which its Australian-built facility was officially handed over to the people of East Timor.

"The raising of the first East Timorese Infantry Battalion and the opening of the Metinaro training facility are truly significant milestones in the history of this country," Dennis McNamara, deputy chief of UNTAET, said at the ceremony marking the events. "Following independence next year, this battalion, trained at this centre, will be charged with protecting and upholding the sovereignty of Timor Lorosa'e."

Acting Chief Minister José Ramos-Horta, the Chief of the Australian Defence Force, Admiral Barry, ETDF Commander Brigadier General Taur Matan Ruak, and UN Peacekeeping Force Commander Winai Phattiyakul were among the other dignitaries attending the ceremony.

Mr. Ramos-Horta thanked the international community for its support in helping create the ETDF, and expressed hope that donor countries would remain involved in the reconstruction and development of East Timor.

The recruitment and selection process for the first 600-member battalion was completed in January 2001, and 250 of these recruits completed their basic training at their former base in Aileu in June. Their 12-week basic training was conducted by Portugal, with specialist training conducted by Australia.

The remaining 350 battalion recruits are currently undergoing basic training at Metinaro. Thirty-two members of the first class of graduates are serving as instructors for the second basic training course, alongside 10 Portuguese specialists.

The process of recruiting men and women to join a second ETDF battalion is also now under way. In the first phase, the Office for Defence Force Development is recruiting some 260 new soldiers above the age of 18, who are expected to begin basic training in January.