Subject: AP: ASEAN Rules Out Immediate Membership For East Timor

Received from Joyo Indonesia News

ASEAN Rules Out Immediate Membership For East Timor

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, Brunei, July 30 (AP) -- The Association of Southeast Asian Nations has ruled out immediate membership for East Timor, the world's newest country, officials said Tuesday.

Asean foreign ministers, meeting at an informal dinner Monday, discussed bringing in East Timor as the 11th member of the regional grouping but could not reach a consensus.

Officials who were present, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that there was a prevailing view that East Timor was in Asean's "geographical footprint" and would eventually become a member.

The country would be an observer to Asean "for a certain period of time," one official said.

East Timor formally became a nation in May after two years of U.N. administration following a quarter-century of often brutal rule by the largest member of Asean, Indonesia.

Rodolfo Severino, who steps down as Asean secretary-general later this year, said that the organization's foreign ministers could discuss the issue again at their annual gathering in Cambodia next year.

As an observer at this year's meeting in Brunei, East Timor has forged bilateral diplomatic relations with Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.

A communique issued Tuesday included a statement saying that Asean was "prepared to engage East Timor in the long-term."

East Timor has said it currently lacks the money to attend Asean's large number of meetings.

The organization's wealthier members - Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand - already provide funds to help the poorer ones - Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam - cope with the heavy diplomatic schedule.

East Timor has been ambivalent about Asean, which stood by when Indonesia invaded in 1976 as the half-island was obtaining independence from Portugal.

Asean was also slow to respond to a rampage by Indonesian troops that devastated East Timor in 1999, when it voted for independence in a U.N.-sponsored ballot.

The arrival of thousands of Australian-led peacekeepers to restore order was seen as an embarrassment to Asean, though Thailand eventually committed substantial numbers of troops.

From: Joint communique of ASEAN ministerial meeting in Brunei

ASEAN Secretariat web site, Jakarta, in English 30 Jul 02

44. We welcomed the Democratic Republic of East Timor as a new member of the international community and were prepared to engage East Timor in the long-term. We had invited East Timor to the 35th AMM and agreed to extend similar invitation for future AMMs. We noted East Timor's intention to become observer to ASEAN and to accede to the TAC. We would continue to consult with East Timor on this matter.

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