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14 December 2008

Australian Governor-General Quentin Bryce arrives in East Timor

14 December 2008 - Article from: Australian Associated Press. GOVERNOR-GENERAL Quentin Bryce arrived in East Timor on Sunday for her first official visit to the fledgling nation.

Ms Bryce and her husband, Michael Bryce, were given a ceremonial welcome on the tarmac at Dili International Airport.

They will tour Australian defence facilities before dining with troops at the Heliport base.

There are about 750 Australian troops stationed in the oil-rich country, although the number will be reduced to 650 personnel by early next year because of the improved security situation.

Australian peacekeepers first arrived in East Timor in 1999, when 1400 people were killed and thousands injured or displaced when pro-Indonesian militias, backed and supported by Jakarta, rampaged across East Timor to disrupt an independence referendum.

Ms Bryce, who made history when she became Australia's first female head of state in September, will spend three days touring the tiny nation, which is one of Asia's poorest and smallest countries.

On Monday, she will meet with East Timor's Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao and President Jose Ramos-Horta, who is the second democratically elected president since independence in 2002.

He was shot in February in an assassination attempt led by rebels which he narrowly survived.

Ms Bryce will also visit the national parliament and deliver a number of speeches, including one with the prime minister's wife Australian-born Kirsty Sword-Gusmao at a lunch for senior East Timorese women.

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