PACIFIC LEADERS HEAD FOR WASHINGTON, D.C. CONFERENCE

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SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, April 30) - Fiji’s situation is expected to be discussed in a meeting of leaders from the Pacific region in the United States next week.

A statement from the United States Embassy said the leaders from around the Pacific would gather for the Eighth Pacific Island Conference of Leaders in Washington, D.C. in the second week of May.

[PIR editor’s note: The Pacific Islands Conference of Leaders is made up of the 20 heads of government from the Pacific islands region and meets once every three years. The conference of leaders is served by the Pacific Islands Development Program at the East-West Center in Honolulu.]

The statement said the U.S. remained committed to the principle that only elected governments should decide the fates of their countries; otherwise the democratic underpinnings of the region would be weakened.

"We are reaching out to the people of Fiji and supporting the efforts of Fiji's Pacific Island neighbors to help that troubled nation quickly return to democracy," it said.

The statement said other countries expected to attend the meeting were Australia, China, France, Germany, India, Japan, Korea, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

"We will discuss the importance of good governance and the rule of law in the region and how to help Fiji return to democracy."

Permanent secretary in the Prime Minister's Office Parmesh Chand confirmed the interim Government had received an invitation to attend the meeting.

"The interim Government is working on arrangements to attend the meeting," Mr. Chand said. "We look forward to participating in this conference."

The statement said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice would meet with the Pacific Island leaders to discuss how they would work together to promote closer political, economic, and cultural ties.

"This meeting of the Pacific Island Conference of Leaders will mark a milestone in what we are calling the Year of the Pacific, a focused effort by the United States government to expand our engagement with the countries of this case and important region," it said.

It said the meeting would see a forum of senior U.S. Government officials from the Departments of State, Defense, Interior, Commerce, USAID and the U.S. Trade Representative's Office to discuss regional and global issues with the region's leaders and hear directly about their interests and concerns.

The statement said the Pacific was a vast, strategic region and its safety and stability were crucial to the security of the United States.

It said many countries in the region faced growing political, environmental and economic challenges compounded by long-term transnational threats.

The U.S. government stated in response to these threats that they were working to promote prosperity, good governance and the rule of law in the region.

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