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RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (September 17, 1997 -Niuswire/Post-Courier)---Australia was accused yesterday of using $450 million in Pacific aid to blackmail island nations into compromising their stance on climate change at this week's South Pacific Forum.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard remained defiant in the face of mounting opposition within the region to his greenhouse plan while his Cook Islands counterpart Sir Geoffrey Henry said global warming had been reduced to a battle between "Australian jobs versus homes in the Pacific."

Australian Opposition deputy leader Gareth Evans said Australia had become an international laughing stock because of the federal government's refusal to accept binding targets for cutting greenhouse emissions.

Mr. Howard was due to arrive here tonight to attend the 16-nation South Pacific leaders' meeting, with the 14 island nations lining up against Australia on climate change.

Australia was warned it could face a stronger backlash than France received over nuclear testing at Moruroa atoll if it refused to accept the need for binding targets on reducing greenhouse gases.

The Rainbow Warrior II, flagship of international environmental group Greenpeace, steamed into Avarua Harbor as the eco-campaigners lent their weight to the strong stand taken by the island states.

"I think it's blackmail," Stephanie Mills, Greenpeace campaign director on board the Rainbow Warrior, told reporters in describing Australia's tactics going into the three-day Forum meeting.

"The countries in this region are only too aware of the precariousness of their own economies and their own environments."

Title -- 888 ENVIRONMENT: Australia accused of aid blackmail Date -- 17 September 1997 Byline -- None Origin -- Niuswire ( Source -- Post-Courier (PNG), 17/9/97 Copyright -- Post-Courier/Agencies Status -- Abridged


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