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E. Timor reaching out to neighbor

By SONIA KOLESNIKOV, UPI Business Correspondent

SINGAPORE, April 26 -- East Timor will "spare no effort to strengthen it ties with Indonesia, although there are still a lot of "fresh scars," East Timor Foreign Minister Jose Ramos-Horta said Friday.

Speaking at a lunch organized by the American Chamber of Commerce, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate said his country was in the process of opening an embassy in Jakarta and hoped to develop "the strongest and best possible relationship" with its closest neighbor.

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"For the past 2 1/2 years, we have spared no effort in mending fences with Indonesia in spite of the tragic experience in the past," he said. "Our people have responded positively. They understand the need to continue to develop the relationship with Indonesia."

East Timor will become independent on May 20 after years of struggle with Indonesia, which invaded the in 1975 when Portuguese colonial rule collapsed. Its occupation ended in 1999 when the East Timorese voted for independence.

Ramos-Horta said East Timor will also be seeking closer ties with other Asian countries, as well as Australia and New Zealand.

The country has been invited to participate in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations foreign minister meeting in Brunei in July, and Ramos-Horta indicated it will be seeking membership of the association.

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"When the actual membership does materialized will depend on ASEAN political will," he said, adding that it might take several years. But it hopes to gain observer status within a year.NEWLN: Content: 11002000

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