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SUVA, Fiji Islands (January 4, 1999 - PACNEWS/INCL)---Fiji's Prime Minister, Sitiveni Rabuka, is confident he will return as the country's leader after this year's general election in May.

Rabuka said his government has done well to maintain a stable economy despite adverse global and domestic conditions.

Fiji, he noted, was badly affected last year by the Asian financial crisis, the collapse of the National Bank and a prolonged drought that devastated the sugar cane sector.

However, he is confident that measures in the 1999 budget will stabilize the Fiji economy and that further growth will be built on that stability this year.

Rabuka said he looks forward to continuing to serve the people of Fiji, and return as leader of a multiparty, multiracial government after the May elections.

There is provision for such a government in the amended constitution, which Fiji adopted last year.

Rabuka's ruling SVT party and the Indian-based National Federation Party, led by Opposition Leader Jai Ram Reddy, are working out a cooperative arrangement under which both parties will contest the election together.

They hope to form a multi-party government afterwards.

According to recent newspaper polls, both Rabuka's and Reddy's popularity has soared again after suffering a sharp drop during mid-1998, soon after the adoption of the new constitution.

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