PNG SHOULD TAKE PART IN FIJI CRISIS TALKS: BRITISH MINISTER

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (12 June 2000 - The National/PINA Nius Online)---British Minister for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs John Battle has called for Papua New Guinea to be included in talks to help resolve the crisis in Fiji.

Mr. Battle, who is on a short visit to Papua New Guinea, made the comment in Port Moresby over the weekend.

He said he will discuss his recommendation with Commonwealth Secretary General Don McKinnon and the foreign affairs ministers of Australia and New Zealand to involve PNG in negotiating for the release of hostages, including former President Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara's daughter.

He said PNG should have been included from the start, but added that it is not late to begin now.

He said Fiji, meanwhile, had been partially suspended from the work of the Commonwealth because it had moved away from the 1997 Harare Agreement.

Mr. Battle said at the moment the Commonwealth members are trying to address two different conflicts: the one in Fiji and the one in the Solomon Islands.

He said the Commonwealth has not imposed trade or economic sanctions against the Solomon Islands yet.

Mr. Battle also met with Parliament Speaker Bernard Narokobi to discuss the Political Integrity Bill and the accountability of politicians in public office.

On behalf of the British Government he also handed over K 38,000 (US$ 15,641) in support of the PNG Media Council to set up a Complaints Tribunal.

He said this money would help the council hire consultants to provide expert advice on the project.

He said PNG has an excellent reputation for freedom of expression and the media should be commended for maintaining their independence and their role in protecting and promoting human rights.

Mr. Battle also visited the Vadavada settlement in the Moresby Northeast electorate and Pari Village in Moresby South. He is the first minister from the Blair government to visit PNG.

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

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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