Dili – About 400 protesters shouted anti-Australia slogans on Tuesday asofficials from Canberra held talks with their East Timorese counterparts over a troubled joint gas development project.
The student protesters shouted "Australia is a thief" and "Down with Australia" as the the officials arrived for talks on the development of the Greater Sunrise project, witnesses said.
They also carried banners condemning Australian miner Woodside Petroleum, one of the main partners in the field, for treating the East Timorese as "fools" and trying to "steal" the tiny country's energy resources.
East Timor has strongly opposed the Greater Sunrise consortium's proposal to process the gas on a floating platform in the Timor Sea separating the two countries, instead of on East Timorese soil.
East Timor official Francisco Monteiro, who is involved in the discussions, said Dili would not budge from its insistence on an onshore processing centre. "What's clear is that our government maintains that the pipeline should come into Timor Leste and there's no bargaining on this matter," he said, using the country's formal name.
East Timor, which agreed to split projected multi-billion dollar revenues 50-50 with Australia after a maritime border dispute, has said a floating platform is untested and carries an unacceptably high level of uncertainty.