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SUVA, Fiji Islands (February 15, 2000 – Fiji’s Daily Post)---Fiji’s successful bid to host the signing of the successor to the Lomé Convention has averted a possible boycott by the European Union (EU).

President Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara said, in an exclusive interview, that members of the EU would have boycotted the signing had it been decided to be held in Africa.

Both Fiji and Togo, in West Africa, had put in their bids to host the signing of the successor agreement.

"Even though the boycott threat was there, African countries were strongly bidding for the signing to be in Lomé," Ratu Sir Kamisese said. "But Fiji's good governance record edged out the African country's bid to have the Lomé Convention replacement signed there."

A theme of the lead-up talks to the replacement convention held in Dakar last year was the insistence by the EU on good governance among the ACP (Asia-Caribbean-Pacific) group.

The Europeans expressed their concern that some African countries were converting aid money sent by the EU to buy weapons instead of much-needed food.

Ratu Sir Kamisese said he had advised Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry and Foreign Affairs Minister Dr. Tupeni Baba to stand fast in their bid for Fiji to host the signing ceremony.

"The reason is that if the signing was to have been done in Lomé, the European Union members would have boycotted because they do not condone any form of military government," he said. "They will not support any military government, just like the one that is ruling Togo now."

Ratu Sir Kamisese said that if the signing were held in Lomé, only the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries would have attended (and not the European Union countries).

"When that happens, the future of the Lomé Convention will be in doubt because the Europeans would not have signed," he said.

"The Europeans agreed to come to Fiji because the current government was elected by the people through a democratic process."

Ratu Sir Kamisese warned, however, that the convention to be signed in Suva could be the last, especially when the World Trade Organization (WTO) is trying to abolish the special agreement enjoyed by the ACP countries.

In fact, the organization wants everyone to be equal, he said.

"Well, if you're strong, you want everything to be equal. If you're weak, then you cannot make the strong be as equal as you are," Ratu Sir Kamisese said.

For additional reports from Fiji’s Daily Post, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Other News Resources/Fiji Live.

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