Subject: AFP: Timor seeks Japanese oil and gas help after Australia deal

Agence France Presse -- English

March 23, 2006 Thursday 4:15 AM GMT

Timor seeks Japanese oil and gas help after Australia deal

TOKYO, March 23 2006

East Timor's prime minister Thursday asked Japan to help build its oil and gas infrastructure after the young nation settled a maritime dispute with Australia that had held up development.

Mari Alkatiri told Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi that East Timor needed know-how to take advantage of the oil and gas deposits that could bring billions of dollars in revenue.

"We need human resources. I appreciate that Japan has been supporting us, helping many people learn to be engineers," Alkatiri told Koizumi, as quoted by a Japanese official. "I would like to see Japan continue this aid."

Japan, a major donor to East Timor which gained independence in 2002, is one of the world's biggest oil importers.

"Japan basically imports all of its oil and natural gas resources from overseas. That makes East Timor a good environment (for investment) and I would like to see your country make good use of the resources," Koizumi said.

East Timor, one of the world's poorest countries, had been locked in a struggle with its wealthy neighbor Australia since independence over sharing of the oil and gas resources.

Canberra had insisted that borders agreed when East Timor was part of Indonesia should stay in place, giving Australia most of the oil and gas.

Under the deal reached last year, the two countries would defer a final decision on their boundary for 50 years and split the revenue.

East Timor is setting up a special fund through which energy revenues can be set aside for future generations.

"We have a lot of resources compared with the size of the country, so we will like to use the fund to construct our country," Alkatiri told Koizumi.


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