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RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (September 16, 1997 - PACNEWS)---Heavy lobbying is underway in the Cook Islands by Fiji's and Papua New Guinea's South Pacific Forum representatives to gain support for their separate candidates to succeed Ieremia Tabai, the retiring Secretary-General of the most powerful and prestigious of the Pacific Islands regional organizations.

The candidates are Fiji's Minister for National and Economic Planning Filipe Bole and former Papua New Guinea government Secretary in the Prime Minister's Office Noel Levi.

Radio Tonga says a meeting of Melanesian representatives took place Sunday night in Rarotonga, where the formal South Pacific Forum proceedings get underway Wednesday. The representatives considered supporting one of the two Melanesian candidates for the top position, but no decision was announced.

Samoa's Ambassador to the United Nations, Neroni Slade, also is among the Secretary-General hopefuls.

Sunday's informal lobbying meeting was attended by Forum officials from Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands, and a FLNKS representative from New Caledonia.

Forum leaders are expected to elect their new Secretary-General on Friday.

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