Subject: Border dispute threatens 3.5bn US dollars gas project


East Timor, Australia border dispute threatens 3.5bn US dollars gas project

July 28, 2004 1:18am Asia Intelligence Wire

[Newsreader] Australia's opposition Labor Party has accused the government of putting at risk a 5bn Australian dollar [3.5bn US dollars] gas project, which is vital to East Timor's economic future. But the government says the opposition is to blame. Melanie Christiansen reports:

[Christiansen] The Greater Sunrise project has been held up by a dispute over maritime boundaries between Australia and East Timor.

Now one of the project partners, Woodside Petroleum, is threatening to pull out, if the disagreement isn't resolved by the end of the year.

The government says Labor has jeopardized the negotiations, by vowing to re-start them if it wins the next election.

[Attorney-General Philip Ruddock] I think to hold out expectations that you will get a different result if there is a change of government is tantamount to undermining Australia's national interests.

[Christiansen] But Labor's Joel Fitzgibbon says the government is at fault.

[Fitzgibbon] The government's bullying approach towards the East Timorese government is causing these negotiations to stall.

[Christiansen] He says Labor is committed to sorting out the dispute fairly and quickly.

Source: Radio Australia, Melbourne, in English 0300 gmt 28 Jul 04

BBC Monitoring

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