MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, Nov. 12) - Australian and East Timorese officials will today begin preliminary talks in the northern city of Darwin on the future of a sea bed boundary between the two countries.

The two countries are seeking an agreement on the area's rich oil and gas reserves.

East Timor wants the boundary to run along a line equidistant to the two countries, rather than the current border which is in Australia's claimed economic zone.

If East Timor succeeds, it would get administrative control over the Bayu Undan gas project, which is worth about US$1.4 billion, and the planned Greater Sunrise gas development, which is double the size of Bayu Undan.

It could also give control of the Laminaria-Corallina oil field to either East Timor or Indonesia, forcing the Australian government to surrender more than $US286 million a year in taxes and royalties.

The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs says the talks will center on a framework for the negotiations which are expected to begin next year.

November 12, 2003

Radio Australia:


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