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SYDNEY, Australia (ABC News Online, 14) - An agreement aimed at
freeing up competition for air services in the Pacific Islands is to be signed
this weekend.

The Pacific Islands Air Services Agreement has been negotiated
over the past five years.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard, who flew to Auckland last
night for the Pacific Island Forum Leaders Meeting, said he intends to offer
funding for a study into why so many of the Pacific Island nations cannot run
profitable airlines.

But the island countries have already moved to find an answer

The Forum Secretariat's aviation expert, Robert Guild, said the
Pacific Island Air Services Agreement, which will be opened for signature on
Saturday, aims to open up the skies over the Pacific.

"The 14 forum island countries between them are parties to
something like 67 bilateral air service agreements," he said. "This
complex system has hindered the development of new routes between the countries,
and has made it more difficult for the airlines to develop."

The agreement needs six countries to sign to enter into force.

August 14, 2003

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