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Old 14-08-2003, 07:13 PM
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Australia ruled out of Forum's "Secretary-General race," Prime minister tells Howard

Thursday 14 August 2003

Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare this morning informed Australian Prime Minister John Howard that PNG views the position of the Secretary-General of the South Pacific Forum Secretariat should remain with the Pacific Islands countries, with Australia and New Zealand be excluded.

Sir Michael said this when having bilateral talks with Mr. Howard at the Sheraton Hotel in Auckland. He said a consensus has been reached by the MSG leaders that nations from Polynesia and Micronesia should have the candidature for the position of Secretary-General to the Forum Secretariat.

"The MSG countries have already reached consensus to rule Australia out of the race, except for Solomon Islands whose stand is not clear at this stage. It is likely that a tight situation like Solomon Islands will have no choice but to go with the majority," said Sir. Michael.

"I told Mr. Howard that if Australia insists on its candidature
then, the position must be put to secret ballot vote but however this has not been done before where decisions were based on consensus and not secret ballot."

Sir Michael also held discussions on the intervention forces in
Solomon Islands, Zimbabwe Eminent Persons Group, Review of Australian Aid to PNG and the conceptof a Regional Security Unit.

The Prime Minister thanked Mr. Howard for Australia's immediate response to the request by Solomon Islands to provide assistance to restore peace and normality in that country.

"Papua New Guinea will support Australia's initiative to train
Solomon Islands police in Fiji but this should only be for police training. Papua New Guinea will also open the Bomana police college for training and the Goldie River training."

Sir Michael also informed Mr Howard that the intervention force
should be seen as a regional initiative and not dominated by Australia over the active role of participating countries such as PNG in the Solomon Islands.

Sir Michael also welcome Australia's announcement to review the
effectiveness of its aid program to Papua New Guinea.

He expressed that since the shift from Budget support to aid program, Australia now virtually controls the expenditure and accountability of aid money to PNG.
Any review will be on Australia's capacity to implement the aid
program and determine how effective the aid program is on the issue of the Regional Security Unit, Sir Michael asked Mr Howard to support PNG's initiative to establish a regional security force to respond to natural disasters and political crisis situations in the Pacific island countries.

Meanwhile, Mr. Howard was really supportive of the concept of
the regional security forces and other issues discuss but did not say much on the issue of the position of the Secretary-General to the Forum but indicated that it is still on for discussions.

Approved for release by the Prime Minister's Media Unit. You can visit the Prime Minister's website: www.pm.gov.pg

PNG's Prime Minister, Sir Michael Somare
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