March 19, 2007 - 3:09PM
New Zealand's commitment to East Timor is being increased with two air force helicopters and another 32 personnel to be deployed, Prime Minister Helen Clark says.
She said the two Iroquois helicopters would be in East Timor for up to 12 months with a third on standby.
The 32 personnel involved in that deployment will take the total number of New Zealanders involved in the Combined Joint Task Force (CJTF) to about 180.
"This is happening at what is potentially a more volatile period in the run-up to the presidential elections in April," Clark said at her post-cabinet news conference.
"The helicopters will provide additional transport to the CJTF as it supports UN operations in what is a mountainous country with a poor road network and where helicopters are essential for moving personnel."
Clark also announced that a senior New Zealand officer would take up the appointment of deputy commander of the CJTF.
East Timor has been through troubled times since gaining independence from Indonesia in 2002 and New Zealand has been involved in operations there since 1999, during the transition period.
New Zealand troops have been with the CJTF, along with more than 900 Australians, since it was deployed in 2006.
As well as the troops, there are 25 New Zealand police in the country as part of a UN mission, and two defence force personnel are attached to the Timorese defence force as advisors.
© 2007 AAP