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East Timor's New Prime Minister Meets With Indonesian President


The prime minister of East Timor and the president of Indonesia have started work on an agreement to finalize the border between the two countries. The meeting of East Timor Prime Minister Jose Ramos Horta and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is the first since Mr. Ramos-Horta took office.

Jose Ramos-Horta was one of the most outspoken critics of Indonesia's colonial rule of East Timor during the region's long struggle for independence. Now, just a few years after his country's independence, in one of his first tasks as the country's new prime minister, Mr. Ramos-Horta must work closely with Indonesia's leaders to define a boundary between the two nations.

Mr. Ramos-Horta on Tuesday met with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on his first international trip since he became prime minister earlier this month.

The two leaders did not speak to reporters following their meeting, but Dino Djalal, a spokesman for Mr. Yudhoyono, said the two countries are still working out the details of a border agreement.

"The two leaders agreed that they would finalize the agreement very soon and have it signed," he said. "Right now I think it's only the remaining one percent that remains problematic, but we are going to finalize it and we are going to sign it by September."

The two leaders also discussed details of a deal with Indonesia and Australia using World Bank funds to build a road connecting rural areas of East Timor. The tiny nation faces widespread infrastructure challenges and is struggling to revive its economy.

Djalal says Mr. Ramos-Horta also thanked the Indonesian president for recent humanitarian aid. East Timor is one of the poorest in the world, with an estimated 70 percent unemployment.

The spokesman says Ramos-Horta expressed his appreciation for the Indonesian aid sent a couple of days ago. He also said that although the situation in East Timor is not fully under control, it is now much calmer and there are signs of hope.

Mr. Ramos-Horta was named prime minister earlier this month after his predecessor, Mari Alkatiri, resigned because of allegations he contributed to factional fighting earlier this year. After Mr. Alkatiri fired 600 soldiers from the country's military, the country broke down into chaos. The fighting led to dozens of deaths in East Timor's capital, Dili, and forced thousands of people to flee the city in April and May.

International troops, mostly from Australia, arrived to re-establish order and back up government security forces.

Mr. Ramos-Horta is scheduled to go on to Malaysia later this week, where he is expected to submit a formal bid for East Timor to become the 11th country to join the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Djalal told reporters Indonesia supports East Timor in its bid to join the regional grouping, a process that could take five years.

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