Brunei troops to join M'sia in Lebanon

Brunei Darussalam has agreed to send a small contingent of about 100 troops together with the Malaysian contingent to Lebanon to participate in the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmed Badawi said.

The Malaysian premier met the media yesterday after a four-eye meeting with His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam in conjunction with the 10th Annual Consultation, at the Awana Kijal Golf, Beach, and Spa Resort in Kemaman, Bernama reported.

At the meeting, Abdullah said he and His Majesty expressed regret over the developments in Lebanon.

The issue of overlapping oil rights is yet to be resolved as Abdullah said it was still being discussed at the officers' level.

The prime minister said various bilateral issues were discussed at the cordial meeting that lasted for about an hour.

Malaysia and Brunei yesterday agreed to build the Trans-Borneo Highway to facilitate travel between the two countries in the future.

Abdullah said the proposed highway would link Kuching (Sarawak) to Brunei and Sabah.

The project was seen to be crucial as it could contribute towards closer relations between the people of the two neighbouring countries, he told reporters.

Also present were Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar and Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Tan Sri Bernard Dompok.

When asked further on the project including construction cost, Abdullah said: "Wait first, it's still too early."

Abdullah said that for the long term, the government also planned to build a highway that would link the Trans-Borneo Highway to Kalimantan Indonesia.

"That is a project which we have to consider later, it's not necessary to implement the project (to Kalimantan) immediately," he said.

On travel between Sabah and Brunei, the Prime Minister said both governments had also agreed to come up with travelling procedures without using the passport.

"This can be worked out and Brunei has agreed (on the matter), discussions had also been initiated and we hope the discussion can come up with what we are hoping for," he said.

He said such facility had already been implemented in Sarawak and would be extended to Sabah.

"The Sultan had said that many people from Sabah go to Brunei. This means, such a facility is needed to make it easier for travellers," he said.

On the petroleum issue involving both the countries off Sabah shores that had cropped up since 2002, Abdullah said the matter was still being discussed at the officers' level between the two countries.

The dispute arose following overlapping claims over Block J and K deep waters in Brunei's EEZ and Malaysia's Blocks L and M off Sabah.

Meanwhile, Malaysia has invited Brunei to send its officers to the country to follow the development programmes implemented under the Ninth Malaysia Plan (9MP), Abdullah said.

He also said that both countries have agreed to enhance bilateral cooperation in various fields, including the exchange of officers.

"We have agreed to work towards enhancing bilateral relations," he added.

The annual consultations, which began yesterday, will conclude today. - Borneo Bulletin (25th August 2006)