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Last Updated: Monday, 25 April, 2005, 13:31 GMT 14:31 UK
Ad slams Canberra over E Timor
By Phil Mercer
BBC News, Sydney

An advertising campaign has been launched in Australia, criticising the government for its handling of oil and gas negotiations with East Timor.

The tiny country has argued that Australia's hardline stance over disputed maritime boundaries could cost Dili billions of badly needed dollars.

The private TV campaign is aimed at embarrassing Canberra into allowing a change in the boundary line.

But Australia says its stance has been fair, considerate and decent.

The government in Dili wants the maritime border it shares with Canberra to be in the middle of the 600 km (370 miles) of sea that separates the two countries.

But Australia wants to stick with the same boundary it agreed in 1972 with Indonesia, East Timor's former colonial master.

In some places, that frontier is less than 150 km ( 93 miles) off the coast of this tiny cash-strapped nation.

Where the line is eventually drawn will be critical.

At stake are oil and gas reserves worth $30bn, under the seabed in the Greater Sunrise Field.

Now a private television advertising campaign has been launched, aimed at embarrassing the Australian government into accepting East Timor's demands.

War veterans appearing in these advertisements fought in East Timor during World War II, and insist they owe it to the people there to fight for their rights.

The Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, said the stance taken by his government had been fair.

His foreign minister, Alexander Downer, condemned the television adverts for being dishonest and irresponsible.

Fresh negotiations between the two sides are scheduled to begin in Dili on Tuesday.

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