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By Isaac Nicholas

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (January 7, 1999 - The National)---Papua New Guinea will host the first multi-national naval exercise involving seven countries in the Pacific region in June/July this year.

The exercise ,"Paradise 99," will involve Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Palau, the Solomon Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia and PNG.

PNG Defense Force Chief of Operations Colonel Peter Ilau said yesterday that the exercise, to be conducted in the Solomon Sea near Milne Bay and Morobe provinces, would involve more than 300 naval personnel and more than 12 vessels, including patrol boats and landing craft.

He said it was a normal "Paradise" exercise, carried out annually between PNG and Australia. A similar but smaller exercise was carried out last year.

"This will be the first multi-national exercise to be conducted involving the seven Pacific countries of Australia, Fiji, Palau, Federated States of Micronesia, Solomon Islands, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea," Col. Ilau said.

He said the purpose of the exercise was to share tactics, skills and equipment.

Alotau would be the port of call because of its port facilities, logistics support capabilities and refueling facilities. Naval personnel would be involved in civic action program in Alotau.

Col. Ilau said all countries taking part were expected to meet their own costs of participation.

"We do not expect additional expenses from the PNGDF (Papua New Guinea Defense Force)," he said.

He said the Defense Force would provide medical support during the 12-day exercise, which starts on June 28.

For additional reports from The National, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The National (Papua New Guinea).

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