GATES REFUSES FIJI INVITE TO ACP SUMMIT

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SUVA, Fiji Islands (May 6, 2002 – Daily Post/FijiLive)---Multi-millionaire computer businessman Bill Gates has turned down Fiji’s invitation to attend the 3rd African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Summit to be held in Nadi in July.

According to Minister for Foreign Affairs Kaliopate Tavola, the renowned computer businessman had shown interest in coming to Fiji but was committed during the meeting time.

Mr. Tavola said that government is trying to make the 3rd ACP Summit attractive by inviting people with world status, such as Mr. Gates. They now are banking on the availability of United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan.

The minister said to The Daily Post that government had sent an invitation to Mr. Annan and was awaiting word from the UN.

"We’re crossing our fingers that Mr. Annan would be available for the summit," Mr. Tavola said.

He said that the government had also sent out invitations to world leaders.

The major reason for making such invitations is to create interest with participants, especially from those in Africa and the Caribbean.

Mr. Tavola said that preparations are on schedule and the Cabinet will be briefed on the latest report tomorrow.

He said Fiji will host very important people from member countries as well as heads of governments who will be accompanied by their respective foreign affairs ministers.

All government ministries are working hand in hand in the preparations process.

The minister confirmed that the Home Affairs Ministry would look after security and the army would be assisting police.

The government, he said, would also be recruiting French speakers from outside Fiji, because the majority of the expected participants speak French.

Mr. Tavola said the timing of the summit was very important for all ACP countries because they have to agree to a new trading agreement before another meeting in Brussels in September.

According to Mr. Tavola, the only threat to ACP countries now was the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) requirement of free trade. Developing countries, he said, are going to be facing stiffer competition from developed countries.

He said they have to come up with a new trading arrangement that would see preferential markets maintained.

The 3rd ACP Summit will take place July 16-19 and the government is expecting a total of 1,500 participants.

Funding for the summit will be from the government and the European Union, which has been earmarked at F$ 3 million (US$ 1,349,700).

For additional reports from Fiji’s Daily Post, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Other News Resources/FijiLive.

For additional reports from FijiLive, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Other News Resources/FijiLive.

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