Aug 28, 2008 8:18 PM East Timor's Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao has thanked New Zealand for the assistance it is giving to his country.
"When we asked for it, you sent your men and women," he said at a press conference with Prime Minister Helen Clark on Thursday.
"They have gained the respect of our people, we know New Zealanders are our good friends."
New Zealand has about 180 defence force personnel and 25 police in East Timor as part of an international peacekeeping force, and there has been a New Zealand presence in the country since it gained its independence from Indonesia in 1999.
Clark, who held talks with Gusmao and several of his ministers on Thursday, said New Zealand would investigate future assistance in areas including community policing, education administration and customs service support.
"This high level visit is a good opportunity to look forward to the role New Zealand can play," she said.
Gusmao said East Timor's army and police were being reformed and were starting to work together.
He said he did not know how long New Zealand and other forces would be needed, but he hoped it would not be beyond the end of next year. On Friday, Gusmao will meet with the mother of Kiwi soldier Leonard Manning who was shot dead while serving in East Timor eight years ago.