NEW ZEALAND SAYS INDEPENDENCE FOR TOKELAU ONLY IF THE PEOPLE WANT IT

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(Background: Tokelauans Pleased To Remain Dependent: Huntsman)

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (April 2, 2000 – Radio Australia)---New Zealand Foreign Minister Phil Goff says independence will not be imposed on Tokelau.

Tokelau, a New Zealand territory 480 kilometers (288 miles) north of Samoa, has no airport or harbor and only recently initiated a telephone exchange.

About 1,700 people live on its three atolls while an additional 5,000 Tokelauans reside in New Zealand.

The atolls remain on the United Nations Decolonization Committee list, and University of Auckland anthropologist Judith Huntsman said that despite the wishes of the people to remain within New Zealand, they are being encouraged to pursue independence.

However, Mr. Goff says the new government stands by assurances given to Tokelau that its future political status and the pace of change will be in the hands of the Tokelauan people.

In a statement released to the AFP news agency, Mr. Goff said the existing relationship will only change if Tokelau wants change.

For additional reports from Radio Australia, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Radio Australia.

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