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By Stevenson Liu

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (June 10, 2000Vanuatu Weekly/Hebdomadaire)---Vanuatu can avoid the same crisis that is crippling the neighboring countries of Fiji and Solomon Islands if services are delivered effectively and equally to the people.

Prime Minister Barak Tame Sope told a press conference this week that it is his government's priority to see this is done.

"When services are distributed well to the rural areas and people are occupied then we don't have to worry about these matters," he said.

The Chairman of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) added that Vanuatu has an advantage with the small number of its population.

"As we can see, the two countries (Fiji and Solomon) have a very high number of population which is a factor that could contribute to creating an environment ideal for conflicts," he said.

When asked whether Vanuatu is ready to control any activities similar to those affecting Fiji and the Solomon islands, the Prime Minister said Vanuatu has "well-trained people in place to counter such activities."

The MSG head said the current crisis in the region could also affect Vanuatu in terms of trade and industries.

"We can't say we are in an advantaged position in areas such as tourism.

"We are close to these countries and people around Europe, for example, may see us as a nation with a similar situation like that of Fiji or the Solomons."

While the Government is more cautious about declaring its benefits from the crisis, the National Tourism Office said that statistics have already shown that more tourists who had planned to go to these two countries (Fiji and Solomon) are diverting their holiday trips to Vanuatu.

"Vanuatu can derive more new visitors to Vanuatu due to the problems with our neighboring countries, such as Fiji, the Solomons and PNG, only if we work together and provide good services to our visitors, as tourism is 'everyone's business," a statement by the National Tourism Office said.

According to the statement, a number of Fiji business were diverted to Vanuatu due to the Fiji crisis."

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister, Barak Tame Sope, said Vanuatu is saddened by its neighbors' conflicts.

For additional reports from the Vanuatu Weekly/Hebdomadaire, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Other News Resources/ Vanuatu Weekly/Hebdomadaire.

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