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MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, April 19) - Australia and East Timor will begin new talks in Dili today on a permanent maritime boundary between the two countries.

But Timorese officials fear the talks could drag on for decades.

East Timor wants a seabed boundary no closer than the midway point between the two countries. But that would force Australia to surrender control of vast oil and gas fields worth billions of dollars in potential revenue.

East Timor's Prime Minister has warned his government might withhold ratification of a joint agreement to exploit the richest field - Greater Sunrise - if Australia doesn't negotiate in good faith.

Officials in Dili also want monthly talks to settle the issue within five years.

But Australia has agreed to talks only twice a year, and is refusing to submit to the international court of justice to resolve the dispute.

April 19, 2004

Radio Australia: www.abc.net.au/ra


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