Subject: East Timor may compete at Sydney Olympics

East Timor may compete at Sydney Olympics

SYDNEY, May 4 (Reuters) - East Timor could be represented at this year's Sydney Olympics under a joint proposal by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Australian government.

The IOC last month rejected a request by leaders of the former Indonesian province to include it at the Sydney Games because the U.N.-administered territory did not fulfil the criteria for Olympic recognition.

However, Australia's IOC vice-president Kevan Gosper said on Thursday that the IOC, with the help of the Australian Government, was hoping that East Timor could still be included.

Gosper said the IOC was seeking a clearance from the United Nations because East Timor was virtually independent and could therefore be distinguished from any other territory, eliminating one of the main obstacles.

East Timor is currently under U.N. administration after voting last year to cut ties with Indonesia, which invaded the former Portuguese colony in 1975.

``We've got full support from Portugal and many other nations around the world,'' Gosper told Australian Broadcasting Corp radio. ``The whole thing is to make sure all the players are involved and everybody's travelling in the right direction.''

``We would keep in touch with Indonesia to make sure they were comfortable with this,'' Gosper added.

The East Timorese push for a symbolic presence at the Sydney Games came after independence leader Jose Ramos-Horta asked Australian Prime Minister John Howard last month to lobby Olympic officials.

Ramos-Horta argued that inclusion in the Olympics would be a great psychological boost for his nation of 800,000 people.

East Timor is making its first tentative steps towards independence after 400 years of foreign occupation and a bloody separation from Indonesia last year.

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