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19 September 2008

Australia won't withdraw troops until East Timor remains stable

ABC Radio Australi 19/09/2008 - Australia's defence minister, Joel Fitzgibbon, says his government won't pull troops out of East Timor until it's certain the current level of stability will continue.

Our reporter in Dili, Stephanie March, says during a whistle-stop visit to East Timor Mr Fitzgibbon met with East Timor's prime minister, Xanana Gusmao.

Both leaders agreed the security situation in the country is fragile, and further economic development is required to create lasting peace.

Prime Minister Gusmao said the state agreed international forces should remain throughout 2009, but didn't rule out the possibility of a reduction in numbers.

Minister Fitzgibbon said troop numbers are constantly under review.

"So the time will come when we can start to reduce numbers, but we will be guided by the government of Timor-Leste and we certainly won't be reducing until we can be absolutely confident that a reduction in numbers won't lead to a reduction in [the] stability we have enjoyed," he said.

Australia currently has 750 troops deployed in East Timor.

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