SUVA, Fiji Islands (December 12, 2000 – Radio Australia)---The Government of Tuvalu has chartered an Air Fiji aircraft to fly foreign dignitaries to the capital, Funafuti, for the State Funeral of the late Prime Minister, Ionatana Ionatana.

Radio Australia correspondent Sean Dorney reports that the small central Pacific nation of nine coral atolls has been in mourning since the Prime Minister collapsed and died at a function last Friday night:

"Messages of condolence have flowed into Funafuti from around the world for the late Prime Minister, who had been head of the Government of Tuvalu for just twenty months.

"Among those attending today's State Funeral will be Fiji's Deputy Prime Minister, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, and a number of Ambassadors and High Commissioners based in Suva. They'll fly to Tuvalu on an Air Fiji aircraft.

"Mr. Ionatana was attending an Air Fiji reception last Friday night marking the airline's first year of operations to Tuvalu when he suffered what appears to have been a heart attack.

"Tuvalu's Deputy Prime Minister, Lagitupu Tuilimu, has become Acting Prime Minister.

"Sean Dorney, Radio Australia."

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

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