MELANESIAN SPEARHEAD GROUP TO MEET IN SOLOMONS

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SYDNEY, Australia (Australian Broadcasting Corp. May 8) – The new Solomon Islands Government may be out-maneuvering Australia and New Zealand in relation to the future role of the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI).

Foreign ministers from the Melanesian Spearhead Group are to hold an emergency meeting in Honiara this week ahead of a planned visit next week by foreign ministers from Australia and New Zealand.

[PIR editor’s note: The Melanesian Spearhead Group comprises the four Melanesian states of Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Fiji. The Group signed the region’s Preferential Trade Agreement in 1994 – a sub-regional trade treaty established to foster and accelerate economic development through trade relations.]

Australia and New Zealand have been quick to condemn the appointment to Cabinet of two members of the Solomon Islands Parliament who are in custody facing serious charges relating to last month's riots.

The Melanesian Spearhead Group has convened a special meeting of foreign ministers in Honiara, Solomon Islands, as an initiative to provide moral support to a member country in trouble, the group's secretariat says.

RAMSI, while led by Australia, is a regional effort endorsed by the Pacific Islands Forum.

The current chairman of the forum is Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare, who has sent his Foreign Minister, Sir Rabbie Namaliu, to Honiara for the meeting.

May 9, 2006

ABC News Online: http://www.abc.net.au/news/

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