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VANUATU OPPOSITION QUESTIONS LEGALITY OF PARLIAMENT MEETING

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (April 19, 1998 - PACNEWS/Ioane)---The Vanuatu opposition has asked the Ombudsman, Marie-Noelle Ferrieux-Patterson, to investigate the legality of an extraordinary sitting of the new Parliament last Tuesday.

The Speaker, Edward Natapei, had called the urgent meeting to approve a temporary appropriations bill to fund government services and to pay civil servants during the three-month April through June period, until this year’s budget is approved, Radio Vanuatu reports.

But the opposition complained that the sitting was not in line with parliamentary standing orders, which requires a notice of 25 to 30 days before the house is authorized to debate any appropriation bill.

Natapei told the sitting Tuesday it was necessary to pass the bill because of the urgent need to pay civil servants and keep services running until the budget is ready in June.

Port Vila Member of Parliament Willie Jimmy has written to Ferrieux-Patterson, complaining...

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SOLOMON ISLANDS TO REDEVELOP AHUNA ISLAND TOURIST RESORT

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (April 19 1998 - PACNEWS/Ioane)---The ill-fated Ahuna Island Tourist Resort in the Solomon Islands' Central Province, which was once the pride of the country's tourism industry, is expected to be up and running again by the first quarter of 1999.

The plan was made public by Tourism Minister Enele Kwanairara while explaining the government's involvement with the tourist facility, which was burned down following a dispute with landowners more than 10 years ago.

Kwanairara told Parliament that negotiations now are underway with the Australian based Islands Hotels company on an agreement to redevelop the project.

He said the government is considering offering development incentives, such as a tax holiday and the exemption of duty charges on necessary construction materials.

The minister said construction work will begin as soon as an agreement is finalized and the company pays a land use fee of $US 840,000.

Islands Hotels also...

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MARSHALL ISLANDS PRESIDENT KABUA TO CHALLENGE NITIJELA SPEAKER NOTE OVER GAMBLING

LEGISLATION

MAJURO, Marshall Islands (April 16, 1998 - Marshall Islands Journal)--- President Imata Kabua and other Nitijela members are expected to file a law suit in the High Court shortly challenging Speaker Kessai Note's refusal to allow them to vote in the recently passed gambling legislation.

Kabua, Minister Phillip Muller and Senator Tony deBrum are expected to join in a suit against the Speaker's action in disqualifying the three from voting on Bill 114, legislation to allow "soft" gambling by churches, schools and other non-profit organizations. It was passed on the last day of the session in late March.

According to Acting President Tom Kijiner, the three are enlisting the services of attorney David Lowe to advance their argument that Note acted wrongly in preventing them from voting on Bill 114.

The Speaker prevented the three from voting because of what he said was their conflict of interest. They also were not allowed to vote on an...

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U.S. COMPANY TO HELP UPGRADE KIRIBATI TELEPHONE SYSTEM

TARAWA, Kiribati (April 19, 1998 - PACNEWS/Ioane)---The Kiribati government will sign an agreement with an American communications company --Indium Limited Liability Company-- shortly to upgrade telephone facilities throughout the country's far-flung islands.

A spokesman for Indium, who was in Tarawa recently, says his company is prepared to assist Kiribati reconfigure its telephone system through the use of satellite-activated, cordless mobile phones, Radio Kiribati reports.

The handsets planned for general use will receive message transmissions from low orbiting satellites, eliminating the need for extensive ground wire, microwave, cable and similar systems.

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TALKS ON FUTURE OF NEW CALEDONIA RESUME

NOUMÉA, New Caledonia (April 20, 1998 - Radio Australia)---Talks on the future of New Caledonia are expected to resume in Nouméa today between the French government and the pro-and anti-independence factions.

The new talks follow a meeting yesterday between French delegates, the anti-independence Rally for Caledonia in the Republic and the pro-independence Kanak Socialist National Liberation Front

No details of the meeting have emerged.

The three parties have been negotiating since the start of the year on a mutually acceptable accord on the political future of the French territory in Melanesia.

In 1988, the state and the two factions signed the so-called Matignon Accords that stipulated a referendum on the issue of self-determination be held after 10 years –in 1998.

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HAWAII COURSE EXAMINES ASIA-PACIFIC SECURITY CONCERNS

TARAWA, Kiribati (April 19, 1998 - PACNEWS/Ioane)---Representatives from 20 countries in the Asia-Pacific region have completed a 12-week security studies course offered by the Honolulu-based Asia Pacific Center for Security Studies.

Kiribati's representative, Police Superintendent Tekaie Iuka, says the course focused on defining the various roles and missions of security forces, exploring regional security issues – both historical and contemporary -- and identifying indicators of potential security concerns in the region, Radio Kiribati reports.

The course was designed to help maintain positive military and civilian security relationships among 44 nations and territories of the Asia-Pacific region, Iuka said.

More than 30 course participants were presented with a diploma of participation by the center's President, Henry C. Stackpole.

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ONA DEMANDS BOUGAINVILLE CEASE FIRE POSTPONEMENT

BOUGAINVILLE, Papua New Guinea (April 19, 1998 - Radio Australia)---The hard-line Bougainville secessionist leader, Francis Ona, is demanding the indefinite postponement of a cease fire which is due to be signed in 11 days time.

Senior Bougainvillians were presented with a document totally rejecting the current peace process when they visited Mr. Ona for the second time in two days.

Radio Australia's Sean Dorney filed this report by satellite phone from Bougainville.

"The document which Francis Ona told them he wanted all the chiefs of Bougainville to sign, recognizes him alone as the supreme leader of the independent people of Bougainville.

"It also calls for the proposed cease fire to be postponed indefinitely.

"Nobody in the delegation -- which included all four Bougainville members in the Papua New Guinea Parliament -- endorsed the document.

"Only a few chiefs and about 200 people attended Ona's meeting, which was boycotted by most of...

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MARSHALL ISLANDS DROUGHT RECOVERY CONTINUES

HONOLULU, Hawaii (April 19, 1998 - PIDP/CPIS/Hulsen)---Purification units that turn sea water into drinking water, now are providing drought-stricken Marshall Islanders with more than 150,000 gallons of fresh water a day.

The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency, which provided the Marshalls with $6.5 million in assistance after the country was declared a major disaster area by President Bill Clinton March 20, reports that Majuro, Ebeye, Kwajalein and Jaluit now all are being supplied water by ROWPUs, or Reverse Osmosis Water Purification Units.

The sophisticated water purification equipment was flown into the Micronesian country during the past week.

In addition to water supply problems, increased medical cases, including dehydration, skin diseases and respiratory infections, have been another effect of the prolonged El Niño-caused drought.

Other related ailments, officials report, include heat stroke, head exhaustion and asthma attacks.

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FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER SINGH CRITICAL OF FIJI'S HIGH FUEL PRICES

SUVA, Fiji (April 15, 1998 - PACNEWS/Ioane)---Former Speaker of the Fiji House of Representatives and one of the country’s most prominent lawyers, Sir Vijay Singh, has criticized petroleum companies in Fiji for perpetuating high fuel prices.

Sir Vijay, who addressed Suva members of the Bank Employees Union about their proposed national strike, said he cannot understand why gasoline prices are not being lowered in Fiji despite sharp falls in world crude oil prices, Island Networks Corporation reports.

He says this is a "perfect" example of where competition among businesses ends in identical fuel prices.

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ENEWETAK ATOLL'S RUNIT ISLAND DECLARED RADIATION SAFE

MAJURO, Marshall Islands (April 19, 1998 - Radio Australia)---After almost 20 years of isolation due to dangerously high levels of radiation, the tiny Pacific island of Runit --in the Marshalls-- has been declared safe for humans to visit.

Runit, part of Enewetak atoll, was severely contaminated by U.S. nuclear weapons tests in the 1950s. But U.S. Department of Energy scientists say the island now is safe --and that islanders living elsewhere are free to visit their homeland again.

Island leaders, however, say they are skeptical of the American evaluation of the radiation risk. They say they want the radiation level studied by independent scientists.

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