East Timor's Sydney plea

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The Independent Online

East Timor has urged Olympic officials to allow it to send a delegation to the opening and closing Sydney Olympic ceremonies.

Reports from Australia said that the East Timorese independence leader, Jose Ramos-Horta, had asked the Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, to lobby Olympic officials.

"If we can have a symbolic presence in the Games the whole world will be able to see the new East Timor as a symbol of tolerance, peace and reconciliation," Ramos-Horta said. The UN-administered territory is making its first tentative steps towards independence after 400 years of foreign occupation.

However, the International Olympic Committee vice-president, Kevan Gosper, said that East Timor would not be able to attend Olympic events until it formally became independent.

He said it also had to be a member of at least five international sporting bodies and to become a competing nation East Timor had to form an IOC-recognised national Olympic committee.