EAST TIMOR CONSIDERING ALIGNMENT WITH PACIFIC ISLANDS

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SUVA, Fiji Islands (March 1, 1999 - Radio Australia)---East Timorese activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Jose Ramos-Horta says Fiji would be an excellent role model for an East Timor independent of Indonesia.

Ramos-Horta currently is in Fiji, holding meetings on the possibility of East Timor joining the South Pacific Forum after achieving independence.

He says an independent East Timor will look to the Pacific, rather than southeast Asia:

"A small country like Fiji, with a lot of experience, and a small island state relatively prosperous and stable can help us also during the transition," he said.

"We view Australia, New Zealand and other island states in the South Pacific as our natural partners."

Ramos-Horta added that "East Timor has far more cultural and ethnic affinities with the islands of the Pacific than with Indonesian or with southeast Asia. And in terms of our strategic choices in partnership, Australia and New Zealand are far more important to us than any other countries in the region."

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