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By Harlyne Joku

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, June 15) – By The United States believes Papua New Guinea has a key role to play in the Pacific through trade, a senior U.S. official told a public lecture at the University of PNG on Wednesday night.

Steven McGann, the U.S. director of the Office of Australia, New Zealand and Pacific Affairs, told an audience that PNG – being the largest island State with vast natural resources – had the potential to be a leading trade partner with Guam.

Guam will be the U.S. trade centre for the Pacific.

Mr McGann added that this would only be possible if the 2007 elections were held without violence, were successful and if there was good leadership.

He said the U.S. is part of the Pacific and had been assisting island countries including PNG by way of education, health and environment through the United Nations Development Programme.

It also provided Fulbright scholarships for students to add value to PNG leadership.

In relation to terrorism and other security threats, Mr McGann said U.S. was not really worried about external threats to the Pacific but more concerned about internal threats and unrest.

"We have to make sure that the problems arising in the Pacific do not become bigger problems," Mr McGann said, referring to the recent unrests in Fiji and the Solomon Islands.

But he added that maritime security in the Pacific was a concern.

Mr McGann is a career Foreign Service officer and prior to his appointment here, he was senior adviser to the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, serving as the maritime security coordinator and expert on North Korean human rights issues.

He was the director for Asia and Near East in the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration from 2003-2005 and responsible for overseeing US$370 million in humanitarian assistance.

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