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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, July 6) - Australia will become more directly involved in the affairs of its struggling regional partners to prevent them becoming incubators for terrorism, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer announced last night.

In a policy shift he described as "specific and significant", Mr Downer said Australia would step in to ensure Pacific governments remained secure and that rule of law is maintained.

"We are now prepared to get more directly involved in cases where we believe this will have a positive impact," Mr Downer told security leaders at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London.

"Our work with the Solomon Islands, with Papua New Guinea, as well as a new agreement on assistance to Nauru, mark a specific and significant shift in our dealings with the South Pacific."

Mr Downer said Afghanistan’s hosting of the Al-Qaeda in the lead-up to the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States and the infiltration of the terror group into Sudan and Somalia proved that failed or failing states posed one of the biggest threats to world peace.

"These events remind us that we must take a practical, activist approach to ensure potential incubators of future threats — weak states — are pulled back from the precipice and given a sustainable footing to face the future with confidence and security," mr Downer said.

"Countries active in the international arena have a responsibility to promote good governance and encourage the development of states capable of dealing with transnational crimes and denying safe haven or safe passage to perpetrators.

Mr Downer said adopting such a pro-active role would deliver a bonus side effect to Australia’s poorer neighbours, by bolstering their legal and political systems.

He said that would give "business people and investors confidence to go about their work and advance the interests of all the members of a community".

July 6, 2004

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