Subject: BP: East Timor not yet ready to join Asean

Also: Myanmar Opposes Dili´s Bid for ASEAN Observer Status

East Timor not yet ready to join Asean

Bangkok Post - Thailand; Feb 28, 2002

BY ACHARA ASHAYAGACHAT

East Timor needs 10 years to prepare for joining the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, de facto Foreign Minister Ramos Horta said.

''Of course we want to join Asean, but we are not in a hurry. In five or 10 years it's possible, but we are not ready now,'' he said. ``We are still building our country, creating government institutions and the economy.''

East Timor was seeking observer status and sent the proposal to the Asean secretariat three months ago.

Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai said Asean's priority was to consolidate, not to expand.

''We have an urgent task to prove to the world that our internal integration is realistic. We have to pursue the task of implementing agreements on the Asean Free Trade Area, the Asean Investment Area, and the Initiative on Asean Integration to close the gaps between old and new members,'' he said.

01 Mar 02 12:15 East Timor: Myanmar Opposes Dili´s Bid for ASEAN Observer Status

ASEAN foreign ministers have failed to reach agreement on East Timor´s bid to obtain observer´s status in the pivotal regional organization, a Filipino foreign ministry official said Thursday in Manila.

"So far there is no consensus on East Timor´s participation" in the 10-country Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Lauro Baja told reporters, referring to a preparatory ASEAN ministerial meeting held in Phuket in mid February.

The main objection to Dili´s observer´s bid, he said, came from Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, whose military government had objected to East Timor´s demonstrations of "solidarity" with their country´s banned pro-democracy opposition.

Thailand has also indicated some reluctance to accepting Dili´s request, arguing that ASEAN should concentrate on "consolidation rather than expansion".

Indonesia, which forcibly occupied East Timor for 24 years, has not objected to observer status for Dili, and the Philippines has formally backed the initiative.

At present, only Papua-New Guinea has observer status within ASEAN.

East Timorese leaders have participated as "guests" at recent ASEAN meetings.

SAS/ASP -Lusa-


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