VETERAN East Timorese leader Xanana Gusmao says he's pushing back plans to stand down as the fledgling nation's prime minister as his fledgling nation continues to dispute oil revenues with Australia.
GUSMAO told The Associated Press in an interview on Thursday he'd intended to resign this September, but will now stay on until the first half of 2015, as East Timor grapples with disputes over oil revenues with Canberra and US energy giant ConocoPhillips.
He said he remained committed to transferring leadership responsibilities to a younger generation, but declined to say who might succeed him. "If I suddenly leave without stabilising these issues it's like running away from your responsibility," Gusmao said ahead of his address on Thursday to the annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations. The 68-year-old was a leader of East Timor's 24-year resistance against a brutal Indonesian military occupation that left more than 170,000 dead. He was elected the nation's first president after independence in 2002 and became prime minister in 2007. The half-island nation is struggling with high rates of poverty and meeting post-independence expectations, but Gusmao said he didn't believe there would be repeat of the unrest if the country's elite was unified. Ties with Australia have been strained by a legal dispute over a 2006 treaty that carves up revenue from oil and gas under the sea between the countries. "We are not desperate for more dollars, but it must be recognised that resources within our maritime borders are ours," Gusmao said. East Timor alleges Canberra spied in order to gain an advantage during the negotiations over the treaty. It has taken Australia to the United Nations' highest court in The Hague over the seizure of documents from a lawyer working for East Timor in the arbitration case. The two nations recently agreed to try to settle those differences outside the International Court of Justice, but Gusmao said if the negotiations did not yield a satisfactory response, East Timor would resume litigation. East Timor is also in arbitration proceedings with ConocoPhillips over what it alleges are unpaid tax revenues from the company's operations at a joint petroleum development area between Australia and East Timor. Source: theaustralian