Subject: LUSA: Oil spills, spy platform concern Dili before sea boundary talks

16-02-2005 12:44:00. Fonte LUSA. Notícia SIR-6756012 Temas:

East Timor: Oil spills, spy platform concern Dili before sea boundary talks

Dili, Feb. 16 (Lusa) - Ahead of the resumption of ocean boundary negotiations between East Timor and Australia next month, Dili is concerned over recent oil spills and Canberra's shelved plan to build a surveillance platform in the two counties` disputed maritime zone.

The Dili government has written to Woodside Petroleum of Australia requesting full information on two oil spills in its Laminaria field in the Timor Sea.

The first spill was in October 2004 and another occurred Jan. 18 in Laminaria - 150 km off the southern coast of Timor in an area of overlapping claims between Dili and Canberra. Woodside said the second spill of about 300 barrels had evaporated.

Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri has called for full clarification from Woodside on the oil spills, which the Dili authorities only learned about through international media.

"The Timorese government considers this area to be under its maritime jurisdiction", said an official Dili communiqué.

Woodside has been asked to provide a formal report and also suggest remedial action to lessen the environmental impact of the oil leaks, the Timorese statement added.

Another worry to Dili before the stalled Timor Sea oil talks resume mid-March in Canberra are reports that Australia has considered converting an unmanned oil platform in the disputed offshore zone into a surveillance station.

The planned "spy platform" in the Buffalo field would have been fitted with radar and electro-optical systems as part of security measures to protect oil and gas rigs in the area from terrorist attacks.

The Canberra government, however, considered the euros 1.7 million cost the facility too expensive and dropped the project.

A Timorese source said the fact that the surveillance platform project had even been considered by Canberra before the resolution of its maritime border dispute with Dili was of concern to the fledgling nation.

However, neither the issue of oil spills nor the shelved maritime security facility were likely to affect next month's talks in the Australian capital, said the source.

The two-day negotiations in Canberra are aimed to settle ownership of Timor Sea oil and gas reserves worth over USD 30 billion.

The talks broke down last October, prompting Woodside to put its Sunrise natural gas project on hold after Dili and Canberra failed to reach an end-of-year deadline imposed by the Australian energy company.



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