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By Samisoni Pareti

SUVA, Fiji Islands (October 28, 2000 – Radio Australia)---The United States has defended its recent sugar deal with Fiji, saying the transaction should not be linked to its stand on the Pacific nation's political problems.

The U.S. is buying Fiji sugar at double the world market price.

American Embassy spokesman John Hennessy-Niland said the sugar deal with Fiji has been in existence for several years.

Unlike Australia's Import Credit Scheme on Fiji's garment exports, the agreement to buy Fiji's sugar has not expired, he said.

He said the sugar deal signed in Suva between U.S. Ambassador Osman Siddique and Fiji's interim government officials is part of a multi-lateral deal in which the U.S. buys sugar from a number of sugar producing countries, Fiji included.

Trying to cut off Fiji from such a multi-lateral deal would be difficult, Siddique said.

The U.S. government, like the European Union, Australia and New Zealand, has ruled out imposing trade sanctions against Fiji.

The latest sugar deal will see the U.S. buying almost 9,500 tons of sugar at close to double the world price next year, which will provide another US$ 2 million to Fiji's coffers.

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

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