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New Timor Gap oil treaty 'imminent'

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer says treaty talks have made a breakthrough  

CANBERRA, Australia (CNN) -- The economic future of the fledgling nation of East Timor is looking more secure after a breakthrough in negotiations over the split up of revenue from the Timor Gap oil fields.

Australia's Minister for Foreign Affairs Alexander Downer said Friday a new Timor Gap Treaty was imminent.

Downer told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that while the technical detail of the agreement would take time, the major stumbling blocks to negotiations had been removed.

"I think we've made a lot of progress and I'm quite optimistic it will be possible to put together a framework agreement in the next couple of months," he said.

East Timor likely to get 85% of revenue

The new agreement is expected to give East Timor 85 percent of the future revenue from the oil fields which lie in the Timor Sea between Australia and Indonesia.

Until last year, East Timor was a province of Indonesia and revenue from the fields was split 50-50 between Australia and Indonesia. But when East Timor voted for independence from Indonesia a new treaty had to be negotiated.

Exploration work in the area has been suspended until the new deal could be worked out, but it is expected revenue from the area could reach $100 million a year within five years.

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4:30pm ET, 4/16

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