Subject: LUSA: Alkatiri Warns Australia Not To Meddle in Oil Tax Negotiations

23 Aug 01 13:24 East Timor: Alkatiri Warns Australia Not To Meddle in Oil Tax Negotiations

Mari Alkatiri, the likely head of East Timor´s next transition cabinet, has warned Australia not to interfere in its negotiations with oil companies over a new tax structure for offshore operations in the Timor Sea. Dili seeks "the best relations" with Canberra but "will not allow it to influence our decisions, much less our system of taxation", Alkatiri told Lusa Wednesday. "If they don´t know me, they should know that the more I am pressured the more I resist", said Dili´s former economy minister and a chief negotiator in talks with both Australia and the oil companies. Alkatiri, the No. 2 leader of the Fretilin party, which is widely expected to win East Timor´s first free elections next week, was reacting to comments by two Australian ministers earlier Wednesday on deadlocked tax negotiations between Dili and the US- based Phillips Petroleum company. The comments by Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer and Natural Resources Minister Nick Minchin were viewed as "paternalistic" by UN officials in Dili. While Downer said Canberra could not "dictate solutions" to Dili, Minchin indicated Phillips should adopt a tougher line in talks with the East Timorese.

SAS -Lusa-

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