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Last Updated: Saturday, 18 October, 2003, 15:28 GMT 16:28 UK
Timorese gain control of border
An East Timorese security guard at the U.N. headquarters opens its main gate in Dili, East Timor, Thursday, Oct. 2, 2003. A
The United Nations will remain in East Timor until at least 2004
East Timor is taking another step towards becoming less dependent on the United Nations, by taking over responsibility for border crossings.

The UN has been guarding and managing East Timor's border since it gained independence from Indonesia in 1999.

The Foreign Minister, Jose Ramos Horta, told the BBC it was a significant step for East Timor, which became the world's newest country last May.

But East Timor insists it still needs international help.

Mr Ramos Horta told the BBC's World Today programme that thanks to help from the UN and countries like Australia, East Timor's police and border control staff were being trained.

But he said that what East Timor wanted was to become "less and less dependent on international assistance".

"The international community is called upon to other emerging problems, and other ongoing problems, like Iraq, Afghanistan, the Middle East and elsewhere," he said,

"East Timor cannot pretend to have a monopoly on international sympathy and support."

Appeal for money

But in an interview with the Associated Press news agency, the country's Prime Minister, Mari Alkatiri, said East Timor still needed foreign donors to keep up their current level of financial assistance.

The US has proposed cutting next year's aid from $25m to $13m - denying suggestions from some Timorese officials that increased costs in Iraq was behind the proposal.

Mr Alkatiri urged Washington not to cut its assistance.

"It's nothing compared to what the United States gives to Iraq," he said. "This is a new democracy and it has to be consolidated."

Next month, East Timor is due to begin negotiations with Australia over maritime borders.

East Timor hopes to gain control of a vast oil and gas field in the Timor Sea, known as Greater Sunrise, which could bring in $7bn for East Timor over the next two decades.

The two countries have already signed an agreement to divide up oil and gas reserves from another huge area under the Timor Sea.

Profile: Xanana Gusmao
20 May 02  |  Asia-Pacific
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20 May 03  |  Asia-Pacific
Timeline: East Timor 1975 to 2002
17 May 02  |  Asia-Pacific
East Timor: Birth of a nation
19 May 02  |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: East Timor
10 Mar 03  |  Country profiles

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