DOWNER VISITS TONGA, PLEDGES SUPPORT

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, Dec. 17) - Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer says he'll be emphasizing to the Tongan Government that Australia is willing to support sensible reform in the kingdom.

Downer arrived in Tonga on Tuesday night on the first day of his pre-Christmas Pacific visit, accompanied by a delegation of Australian parliamentarians.

Mr Downer says the theme of his visit, which will also take him and his team to Fiji, is increased cooperation to support economic development and build security.

Today he is to have an audience with the King of Tonga, his Majesty King Taufa'ahu Tupou IV, lunch with the crown prince, and meet with the acting Prime Minister and the Finance Minister.

The Tongan economy is shrinking and recent constitutional changes have limited media freedom.

Mr Downer says Tonga is facing significant challenges and resolving them will be best managed by the people of Tonga.

December 17, 2003

Radio Australia: www.abc.net.au/ra

 

 

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