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CANBERRA, Australia (December 10, 2001 – Radio Australia)---Australia says it will take a hard look at assisting Nauru overcome its financial difficulties and the problems that have grounded Air Nauru.

Also, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer flies to Nauru this evening to ask the Central Pacific country to increase the number of boat people being processed under Australia’s "Pacific Solution" asylum seeker policy.

Nauru currently houses 700 boat people who were trying to reach Australia, but rejected.

Mr. Downer said Nauru has already received benefits from the operation, with Australia helping with oil supplies and repair of the desalination plant for water.

The Foreign Minister said before Australia stepped in Nauru was having trouble providing power and water for its own people.

"The problem for them in terms of basic facilities has been pretty dire," Mr. Downer said.

"Now we have said to them if they process these people, we'll obviously make sure that there are facilities available for those people, including power and water obviously.

"And so, in order to provide that power and water, we've had to fix up their generators and their desalination plants and make sure they work a lot better.

"And so they've got some benefit out of it," Mr. Downer said. "We haven't just given them checks and said here, you know, here's some compensation for your trouble."

Mr. Downer this week will visit Nauru, Fiji, Vanuatu and New Zealand.

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

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