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By Matelita Ragogo

Suva, Fiji (Pacific Magazine, April 17) - New Zealand will not
make a nomination for the Pacific Islands Forum secretary-general position as
Australia has done, say NZ Foreign Affairs Minister Phil Goff told reporters
here. New Zealand is also host of this year’s Forum meeting.

The issue had raised the ire of most Pacific Island leaders at
the 2002 Suva meeting as the position is, by convention, always filled by an
Islander, rather than someone from Australia or New Zealand

"We have a number of names that have been suggested,
amongst those names Australia’s put forward a candidate, Greg Irwin, who is a
very competent person that I have utmost respect for,’’ Goff said.

"New Zealand would obviously want to consider any candidate
that comes forward on his or her merit, but we do understand a number of Pacific
countries feel that the tradition, the convention of candidates for the
secretary-general coming from outside Australia or New Zealand be upheld."

Goff said a consensus would have to be reached; one he hopes
would be based on "the merits of the candidate that will be best for the

Goff is here with some 40 officials after a tour of Papua New
Guinea. Since his arrival Sunday last, he has held meetings with Prime Minister
Laisenia Qarase, Opposition Leader Mick Beddoes and Fiji Foreign Affairs
Minister, Kaliopate Tavola

Discussions have included bilateral and regional issues
including trade. Goff made further assistance announcements after a visit to the
northern parts of Fiji that were worst hit during a January cyclone.

Goff confirmed his country’s intention to supply x-ray
machines at airports, part of South Pacific Games security measures. He also
confirmed New Zealand’s willingness to offer an immigration quota for Fiji
citizens to allow them employment and residential opportunities, an arrangement
already enjoyed by Tonga, Samoa, Tuvalu and Kiribati

"We have looked at maybe developing and announcing in the
near future a Pacific access quota that would achieve some of the purposes of
the old work scheme which was rather imperfect,’’ Goff said, but he refused
to talk numbers.

On security matters, Qarase refused to comment on national
security concerns with Fiji presently having no police chief and a military boss
that has been at loggerheads with the current government.

New Zealand and Fiji’s relationship is only
"partial" after the lifting of most sports and trade sanctions applied
by the former after the May 2000 coup that toppled Mahendra Chaudhry’s
year-old government. "We would like to see full restoration of that
relationship and that is likely to occur shortly after the Supreme Court
decision is made and matter resolved,’’ Goff said.

The Supreme Court is scheduled to make a decision on June 18.

April 17, 2003

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