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CANBERRA, Australia (September 15, 1997 - PACNEWS)---Australia's Prime Minister, John Howard, faces a serious challenge defending his country's position on climate change at this week's South Pacific Forum in the Cook Islands, according to a leading Australian "think-tank."

The Canberra-based Australian Institute, an independent organization established four years ago, says that diplomatic pressure on Australia, often referred to internationally as a "pariah nation," is mounting.

In a statement issued today, the institute said that while the Howard government saw Australia as the country with most to lose from mandatory emission cuts, the small island states of the Pacific saw themselves as having the most to gain.

The executive director of the Australian Institute, Doctor Clive Hamilton, said Australia seemed to be abandoning its historical responsibilities in the Pacific.

Dr. Hamilton will travel to the Cook Islands Tuesday to attend various meetings surrounding the Forum at the invitation of the Taporoporoanga Ipukarea Society, the Cook Islands environmental organization.

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