Subject: E Timor Receives First Royalty Payment For Undersea Oil

Associated Press October 24, 2000

E Timor Receives First Royalty Payment For Undersea Oil

DILI, East Timor (AP)--East Timor has received its first royalty payment for oil production from undersea deposits it shares with neighboring Australia, the territory's U.N. administration said Tuesday.

U.N. spokesperson Barbara Reis said more than US$3 million had been deposited with the fledgling nation's central fiscal authority, about a million dollars more than had been projected at an international donors' conference in Portugal earlier this year.

Reis said the extra revenue was a windfall for Timor's budget and would be used in priority areas, such as education and health.

The money is for oil produced from one well operating in the Timor Sea between October 1999 and September 2000.

The U.N. has forecast East Timor will receive another royalty payment of about US$2 million at the end of the current fiscal year in June 2001.

However, that well was drying up and no more payments were expected after 2001 until new wells in the field - known as the Timor Gap - were established, Reis said.

East Timor's U.N. administration and Australia are currently negotiating a new treaty to divide revenues from future exploitation of the undersea petroleum resources.

Oil and gas are expected to develop into an important source of income for cash-strapped East Timor along with coffee exports and, in the future, tourism.

About US$2.1 billion have been spent so far to explore and tap the field's reserves so far.

Although current production is small, some Australian officials say the Timor Gap might eventually become lucrative.

East Timor was devastated by pro-Indonesian gangs after the independence vote. The U.N. is currently rebuilding the territory and is expected to hand over full independence late next year.

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