Subject: Opposition parties demand Dili suspend talks on Timor Sea resources

Agence France Presse -- English

November 16, 2005 Wednesday 9:53 AM GMT

Opposition parties demand Dili suspend talks on Timor Sea resources

DILI Nov 16

Three East Timorese opposition parties on Wednesday called on the government to suspend all talks on developing Timor Sea oil and gas resources until after general elections next year.

The Democratic Party, the Social Democrats' Party and the Association of Social Democrats of Timor called for a halt to discussions with Australia over the exploration and the exploitation of reserved worth billions of dollars.

In a declaration read out by Democratic Party Spokesman Fernando de Araujo, the parties said: "The elections will be held in less than one-and-a-half year and the result can lead to a change in government.

"Therefore the current government should refrain from making any sudden compromise, so that the consequences of their actions will not burden the government elected in the next elections."

The three parties said they believed there were indications that the current government would lose in the next elections, Araujo added.

The statement also said since the law on the funding of oil exploration could not be fully applied because the related watchdog bodies had yet to be established, so the potential for corruption was bigger.

Araujo added that the absence of laws that could protect the environment was another reason to stall on the negotiations.

East Timor, which was Asia's poorest nation upon independence in May 2002, is currently in talks with its giant neighbour Australia discussing a deal on sharing billions of dollars' worth of oil and gas reserves under the Timor Sea.

The dispute is over where the boundary should run. Australia insists that a 1972 maritime boundary agreed with East Timor's former ruler Indonesia remains in force.

That boundary, at the edge of Australia's continental shelf, gives Canberra two-thirds of the sea area and most of the resources. East Timor wants the boundary to lie midway between the two countries, giving it most of the resources.



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