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PAPE‘ETE, French Polynesia (Nov. 20, 2002 - Oceania Flash)---Tonga's Prime minister, Prince ‘Ulukalala Lavaka ‘Ata, has cut short a scheduled five-day official visit in French Polynesia and returned to his Kingdom, citing "matters affecting the national carrier Royal Tongan Airlines" and his "capacity as Chairman of the Board of Directors."

In a statement release on Tuesday in French Polynesia, Prince ‘Ulukalala Lavaka ‘Ata, Prime Minister of the government of the Kingdom of Tonga, said he "regretted" the move, but "assured the Government of French Polynesia that His Royal Highness would return very soon."

Local media in Tahiti have expressed concern at the decision.

The prince also thanked the "people of Tahiti Nui and the government of His Excellency President Senator Gaston Flosse for the warm and friendly Polynesian hospitality."

"A delegation consisting of officials of Tonga's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Education will remain to continue the working program," the statement further said.

The prince was scheduled to visit infrastructure facilities of the French territory, including the main international airport of Tahiti-Faa‘a and the domestic one in the neighboring island of Moorea.

Tonga is reported to be currently in a planning phase for the development of its airport infrastructure and is therefore seeking regional examples to follow.

During his Tahiti trip, the prince was also to meet with domestic airline Air Tahiti Chairman, Christian Vernaudon, and international flag carrier Air Tahiti Nui's President Nelson Levy, French High Commissioner Michel Mathieu, local government Vice-President Edouard Fritch and other government ministers.

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