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By Walter Nalangu Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation

YAREN, Nauru (August 8, 2001 - PINA Nius Online)---Nauru Government Chief Secretary Mathew Batsiua is confident that everything will be ready in time for next week's Pacific Islands Forum summit meeting - despite the rush to get everything finished in time.

Batsiua says Nauru couldn't have done it without the generous assistance of its friends overseas, naming particularly the Republic of China (Taiwan) and Australia.

With a week to go before the Forum summit begins, refurbishment of hotels is in the final stages.

Batsiua admits that the time for preparations was not so ideal because Nauru was only given the opportunity to host the meeting early this year. This came after New Zealand objections stopped it being held in Fiji.

But Batsiua said: "We've done a lot in terms of getting the infrastructure in place to accommodate such an important gathering of the region.

"We've renovated the hotels, done a bit of renovation to the conference hall for the main summit, and organized things like food, which is an issue in small island states.

"Everything has come together quite nicely over the past weeks."

On Australia and Taiwan, he said: "They had helped us a lot in preparations leading up to the summit, and any further assistance from friends towards hosting the Forum meeting would be greatly appreciated."

The Chief Secretary confirmed environmental issues would be an important part of the agenda and are expected to attract a lot of debate and discussion.

"There are a lot of current issues regarding environment," he said.

"I know Nauru will be talking on the issue of environment quite seriously in this meeting, and we're looking forward to putting on record some of our strong thoughts and concerns in relation to environment."

Nauru is expecting more than 200 delegates to attend the Forum. Missing as heads of delegations will be Australian Prime Minister John Howard and Fiji's caretaker Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase.

Qarase will be in the middle of preparing for the Fiji elections, which will return the country to democracy after last year's Fiji coup. He is sending deputy prime minister and veteran diplomat Ratu Epeli Nailatikau to represent Fiji.

Howard has decided to miss the Forum for the third time, causing concern and strong criticism of his attitude towards the region. Howard says he will be busy with trips to Japan and Indonesia. He is sending his Defense Minister, Peter Reith, to Nauru in his place.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: 

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