AUSTRALIA'S DOWNER AGAIN VISITING PACIFIC ISLANDS

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CANBERRA, Australia (August 18, 1997 - PACNEWS)---Australia's Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, says he will re-affirm the Australian government's strong and continuing commitment to the Pacific Islands region during visits this week to Vanuatu, Fiji, and New Zealand.

Downer said he wants to emphasize the importance Australia attaches to long-term constructive bilateral relations with Pacific Island countries.

In particular, Downer says, he looks forward to discussing with regional leaders implementation of the fiscal and economic reform measures agreed to during last month's South Pacific Forum Economic Ministers' meeting in Cairns, in north Australia.

Meantime, in Port Vila Monday, the Australian Foreign Minister said his country welcomes the Vanuatu government's continued commitment to its Comprehensive Reform Program.

He told officials that Australia stands ready to support Vanuatu with additional Australian assistance, indicating that a total of just under $10,000,000 will be made available under Australia's AusAID policy and management reform programs to support a wide range of priorities in Vanuatu. These include reforming the public sector and improving financial and economic management.

Downer said he was particularly impressed by the leadership of Prime Minister Serge Vohor and the bipartisan political support and broad community support evident in Vanuatu for the overall government reform project.

Maintaining the momentum of the Comprehensive Reform Program is crucial, Downer stressed.

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