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Friday, May 11, 2007

Pacific leaders meet ends in Washington DC

The United States says it intends to explore ways to ensure Pacific island nations benefit from its estimated $14billion construction program that will result from the relocation of some 8,000 US troops from Okinawa, Japan to Guam.

No details were released in the statement issued by Hawai'i's East West Centre on US' military expansion in Guam, which was discussed at length at this week's three-day Pacific Islands Conference of Leaders (PICL) meeting that ended in Washington yesterday.

On other issues discussed, the PICL agreed on the need to strengthen the Joint Commercial Commission by securing additional resources to fund the programs for developing trade and investment, and by revamping the agreement to improve market access for Pacific Island countries exports.

The global environment was also one of the hot topics of the of the triennial meeting.

The chairman of the leaders group, President Kessai Note of the Marshal Islands, said the environment and rising sea levels is a ''major security issue'' for many of the low-lying island nations.

Another sea-related issue of importance was raised by the President of Palau, Tommy Remengesau, who encouraged broad participation in ''the Micronesian Challenge which promotes the establishment of marine protected areas throughout the Pacific region''.

Among other issues, the 20 leaders, representing an area encompassing one-third of the globe, traveled to Washington to, as noted in their communiqu, ''broaden and deepen the Pacific Islands regions engagement with the United States.''

The communiqu added ''a wide range of topics were discussed including economic development, security, trade, aid, environmental protection, climate change, fisheries, emergency responses to natural disasters.''

USAID and the desire to expand U.S. public diplomacy programs, especially those of an educational and exchange measures, were also on the busy three-day agenda.

Source: Fiji Times

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