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APIA, Samoa (September 27, 2002 – Samoa Observer)---Samoa lent support to concerns that Iraq was hiding weapons of mass destruction at the 57th meeting of the United Nations, saying the South Pacific was no stranger to nuclear weapons.

In his speech at the United Nations, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi said, "Our concern about Iraq reflects in part our very serious concern about the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.

"These weapons pose an immediate and major threat to international peace and security," Tuilaepa said.

"International agreements and assistance to control the development and spread of weapons of mass destruction and to eliminate them must be strengthened and must be implemented."

Tuilaepa referred to the history of nuclear weapons in the region, saying, "We live in a part of the world where nuclear weapons have been tested and used. Our fear of the consequences is real.

"It is why we have the Rarotonga Treaty that declared the South Pacific a nuclear weapons free zone. We call on the nations who have not done so to complete the ratification process of the protocols to the treaty.

"It is why we continue to object to the transportation of nuclear and radio active material through the waters of our region.

"We are appalled about the suffering of families and communities in the Middle East and we pray for permanent peace for all. The current situation is a threat of the utmost gravity to international peace and security. It calls for the highest priority and urgency in the efforts to bring an end to the conflict.

"The solution should be diplomatic.

"The issues are sensitive and complex. That is clear. Yet it is also clear that the Security Council needs to reflect the geopolitical realities of our times. It needs to be properly representative of the international community of today and to be able to function effectively and to be secure in its authority."

For additional reports from the Samoa Observer, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Samoa Observer.

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