Subject: AU: E Timor PM slams Aust Govt

THE WEEKEND AUSTRALIAN

E Timor PM slams Australia

March 21, 2004

EAST TIMOR'S prime minister today slammed the Australian government over its claims that a massive natural gas field in the Timor Sea lies partly in an area of sole Australian control.

Dr Mari Alkatiri said Australia was undermining the development of the Greater Sunrise field with its assertions that it lay partly in an area of exclusive Australian jurisdiction.

The Greater Sunrise International Unitisation Agreement signed by both countries states that the field lies in an area of overlapping claims, Dr Alkatiri said.

"We signed this agreement on the clear understanding that Australia recognised our claims and sought not to prejudice our rights in the Timor Sea, as stated by the IUA, and that consequently, it would engage in good faith negotiations on permanent boundaries," Dr Alkatiri said in a statement.

"While delaying on negotiations, Australia has issued new licences in disputed areas near Sunrise and is continuing to derive revenues from other disputed parts of the Timor Sea."

Australia had issued two exploration licences in disputed areas next to the Greater Sunrise field and had earned an estimated $US1.5 billion since 1999 from the Corallina, Laminaria and Buffalo fields, which are also in disputed areas, he said.

East Timor, one of the poorest countries in the world, had proposed holding monthly meetings to resolve the problem quickly but Australia had said it only had the resources to meet twice a year, he said.

A Senate committee is due to report this week on the Greater Sunrise IUA Bill, which was rammed through the House of Representatives in a matter of hours earlier this month.


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