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June 15, 1999

The Forum Regional Security Committee, comprising officials from South Pacific Forum member countries and law enforcement agencies, will meet in Suva, Fiji this week to exchange information on security and law enforcement issues in the region.

"The recent decision by Forum Trade Ministers earlier this month to endorse in principle a Free Trade Area (FTA), which will be recommended to Forum Leaders when they meet in October, will also have a major impact on the committee's work.

"The proposed FTA demands a high level of regional cooperation in areas such as customs, immigration, police, security issues and legislative drafting," said the Secretary General of the South Pacific Forum Secretariat, Mr. Noel Levi, CBE.

The FRSC was established in 1992 to try to coordinate a regional approach to security issues through training courses, legislative arrangements and related policy measures.

Among its concerns are provisions in the Honiara Declaration which places a priority on putting in place legislative arrangements in extradition, mutual assistance in criminal matters, forfeiture of the proceeds of crime and anti-money laundering legislation.

Forum Leaders have made commitments to ensuring a regional legislative framework is in place by 2000, while recognizing that some member states have limited capacity to meet the provisions of the Honiara Declaration by the recommended deadline.

The Forum Secretariat works closely with specialist regional agencies involved in areas such as customs, immigration, law enforcement and legislative drafting to ensure a coordinated approach is taken on issues of common concern.

The three-day meeting, starting Wednesday 16th June, will also be updated on the progress of a five-year program of assistance for law enforcement agencies which began in late 1998. The regional training program is a joint Customs and Police effort with courses covering fraud investigations, scene of crime investigations, operational intelligence analysis and risk management.

The adoption by Forum Leaders of the 1997 Aitutaki Declaration on regional security cooperation gave the FRSC a broader mandate to also consider aspects of regional security policy, along with its traditional focus on law enforcement. This includes proposed mechanisms for preventive diplomacy, which will be considered by the FRSC this week.

For additional information: Ulafala Aiavao

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