Subject: Aussie Union Boss: Dili Must Get Fair Share of Disputed Gas, Oil Deposits

Associated Press April 22, 2005

Australian union boss: Dili must get fair share of revenue from disputed gas, oil deposits

Australia's top labor union leader demanded Saturday that Australian government negotiators give impoverished East Timor a fair share of multi-billion dollar oil and gas deposits under the sea that separates the two nations.

"East Timor deserves a fair go and a fair share of the billions of dollars being earned from the Timor Sea oil and gas reserves. It is also in Australia's best interests to have a prosperous and stable East Timor as our neighbor," Sharan Burrow, president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, said in a statement.

Her call came ahead of the latest round of negotiations over carving up an estimated 30 billion Australian dollars (US$23.4 billion; €17..89 billion) in revenue from the Timor Sea resources.

"These long-term projects will potentially generate thousands of jobs and bring with them numerous flow-on benefits to the local communities," Burrow said. "The ACTU recognizes that such development would enable East Timor to escape continued poverty and to build a sustainable industry."

Three days of talks are scheduled to start Tuesday in the East Timorese capital.

Energy companies last year shelved plans to tap the US$5 billion (€3.82 billion) Greater Sunrise gas field _ the largest in the Timor Sea _ because the two sides failed to meet a Christmas deadline to reach agreement on the carve-up.

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said Wednesday that the negotiations will explore a Dili proposal to allow drilling to go ahead while postponing any decision on a new maritime boundary.

East Timor wants the border in the middle of the 600 kilometers (370 miles) of sea separating the two. However, Australia wants the same boundary it agreed with Indonesia, which occupied East Timor from 1975-1999. In some places, that boundary is just 150 kilometers (90 miles) from East Timor's coast.

Under the proposed solution, Australia will pay compensation to East Timor in return for Dili postponing its demand for a greater share of the seabed. The boundary question would be shelved until the energy resources were exhausted.


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