MOUNT Alexander Shire has befriended an East Timorese community.The Mount Alexander Shire council has resolved to sign a friendship agreement with the community of Lolotoe in East Timor, and formalise a relationship between the two communities.Lolotoe is a remote rural region of villages in a mountainous area southwest of Dili, close to the Indonesian border. It is an area of subsistence farming and the local produce includes coffee, nuts, vanilla and chocolate. The friendship process started in September 2006, with interest from Mount Alexander Shire community members. Mount Alexander Shire mayor Philip Schier said the agreement would assist the local Friends of Lolotoe community group to move forward in their fundraising and community development work for Lolotoe, and aimed to offer an enriching cultural exchange opportunity for those involved from both communities.“Our relationship with Lolotoe is intended to assist in strengthening the community of Lolotoe, and comes from a strong desire from individuals and organisations in our Shire to contribute to advancements in East Timor,” he said.“We envisage this relationship will involve the exchange of knowledge, skills and resources, at both the local government and community level.” The idea of establishing friendship relationships between East Timorese and Australian communities emerged from the 1999 independence referendum supervised by the United Nations. More than 40 such relationships exist between Australian local governments and districts or towns in East Timor.