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Australian PM pledges support to Timor-Leste
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13:17, February 15, 2008

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Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said on Friday his troops will remain in Timor-Leste for as long as Timorese government wants them to.

Rudd told reporters in Dili, the capital of Timor-Leste, that his country would "stand shoulder to shoulder" with Timor in the future. The prime minister was in Dili on a one-day visit to show support to Timor-Leste which was plunged into crisis on Monday when rebels shot and seriously wounded Timor-Leste President Jose Ramos-Horta.

In Dili, Rudd held talks with his counterpart Xanana Gusmao and discussed cooperation on security and assistance in the economic sphere, including agriculture and youth employment.

"East Timor is an independent democratic state and we will remain in East Timor so long as we are invited to do so by the government of East Timor," Rudd said after the meeting with Gusmao.

"We will always be open to requests from our friends in Dili as to what may be necessary for the future," the Australian Associated Press quoted Rudd as saying in Dili.

Rudd said the two countries were united by their democratic values, and Australia would be a friend to Timor Leste in good times and in bad." Australia is not just a fair weather friend to Timor Leste. Australia is here for the good times, the bad times, the difficult times," he told reporters.

Rudd and Mr Gusmao embraced warmly before their meeting at Dili's Government Palace, where they discussed. The Australian prime minister also visited the Australian troops stationed in Dili. Rudd was accompanied by Australian Defense Force Chief Angus Houston and Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty.

Gusmao welcomed Rudd to the country, saying: "By traveling to Timor Leste Mr Rudd has extended the hand of solidarity between nations and demonstrated that ... peace is a priority."

Rudd was expected to fly back home in the afternoon after the short visit.

Source: Xinhua

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