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Forum leaders to consider expulsion of Fiji

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Aug. 22, 2008) – Papua New Guinea has put up its hand to host the Special Leaders Meeting by the end of this year to determine the possible expulsion of Fiji from the 16-member grouping of the Pacific Islands Forum.

At 4pm PNG time yesterday Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare agreed to host the special meeting which will see all leaders of the member countries (Australia, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Republic of Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu) meet in Port Moresby to elaborate on the issue.

Yesterday, all member nations met extensively on the option of expelling Fiji from PIF but agreed to defer the decision which will be made by Forum leaders at a special meeting expected to be convened before the end of the year.

Pacific leaders met at the Matavai Resort in Niue and announced after lengthy discussions on Fiji’s withdrawal from the meeting and refusal to meet the March 2009 general elections deadline.

Premier of Niue and new forum chairman, Toke Talagi told journalists the decision to discipline Fiji is "consistent" with provisions of the Biketawa Declaration. They also agreed that Fiji must hold elections and failing that will face the consequences.

In the meantime, PIF leaders agreed that Fiji must hold elections in March next year and that PNG Foreign Minister Sam Abal will be part of the Forum Member Country Groups (FMCG), which will comprise Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith, New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters, Tuvalu Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs Apisai Ielemia and Samoan Prime Minister also in charge of Foreign Affairs Tuilaepa Sailele Lupesoliai Malielegaoi.

This group must meet in Fiji later next month and occasionally to monitor the situation in Fiji and then report to the special leaders who will then meet at the end of the year in Port Moresby.

Meanwhile, while all this is happening, PIF leaders appointed a new secretary-general who takes over from late Greg Urwin.

He is Samoan judge, Tuiloma Neromai Slade.

On the other hand all leaders expressed disappointment together with New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clarke on the stand that Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama took to withdraw at the last minute from attending the PIF summit.

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