Subject: LUSA: Ramos Horta Predicts Conflict of Interests With Australia

18 Dec 01 21:40 East Timor: Ramos Horta Predicts Conflict of Interests With Australia

Jose Ramos Horta, the interim foreign minister of East Timor, said Tuesday that he foresaw "conflicts of interest" with Australia over the negotiation of its sea border, due to the oil reserves in the Timor Sea.

However, despite potential problems with Canberra on establishment of frontiers and revenue rights, Ramos Horta believed that "it would be possible to overcome them", as had happened in the Timor Gap negotiations.

Ramos Horta was briefing a parliamentary commission in Lisbon on this situation. The Timorese minister also informed MPs on the commission that his country intends to beef up its ties with the Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries (CPLP); The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN); and the Islamic Conference.

Although East Timor was predominantly Catholic, the world`s largest Islamic nation, Indonesia, is its neighbor and Ramos Horta said, "it is important to have a presence in the Islamic Conference".

Timor´s head of diplomacy said membership of the British Commonwealth was "not a priority" and even if this happened, Timor would only have observer status.

"We aim to be present in places important to East Timor`s interests", he stated, adding that, "possible entry into the Commonwealth would not substitute the CPLP".

At the end of his meeting with MPs, Ramos Horta told Lusa that, "without any doubt", he had fulfilled all of the objectives he had brought to Portugal.

"On the part of MPs and the government, we encountered much openness, support and reciprocation to our preoccupations", which leads us to believe that, "whatever political force emerges in Portugal", will not give cause for concern.

CJB -Lusa-

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