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RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, Oct. 27) – Cook Islands Prime Minister Jim Marurai met with his New Zealand counterpart, Helen Clark, for bilateral talks in Papua New Guinea this week, during Pacific Islands Forum meetings.

The two leaders discussed the Cook Islands' economy, progress and developments made in regards to cyclone repairs and rehabilitation efforts.

Of particular concern to Clarke is the present situation in Pukapuka and Nassau, the two islands that were worst hit by cyclones early this year.

Accompanying Marurai to the Forum is Ministry of Foreign Affairs' Carl Hunter. According to Hunter talks with Clarke centred on avian influenza and the continued influx of foreign workers into the Cook Islands to fill the void created by the lack of skilled workers here.

Meanwhile the leaders' summit has agreed for urgent measures to be taken to try to prevent avian influenza reaching the region and this was also to be top priority at the retreat.

Another major issue was the concept and proposal for forum island countries to bulk buy petroleum products as a means to reduce the high costs that countries are currently paying for carbon fuel such as petrol and diesel.

And the European Union has announced an additional 10 million euros for the Pacific African Caribbean Pacific regional indicative programme in recognition of the solid performance and based on the needs of the PACP region.

November 3, 2005

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