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Monday, August 13, 2007

SI Foreign Minister denies Fiji's exclusion from Forum Summit in Tonga.

By Chris Leua

Solomon Islands Minister for Foreign Affairs, External Trade and Immigration Patteson Oti has refused to acknowledge that Fiji’s Interim Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama is unwelcome at the coming Forum Summit in Tonga.

Mr Oti was reacting to Australia’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Mr Alexander Downer’s comments saying that there is a general feeling amongst Forum member countries that Mr Bainimarama is not welcome to attend the next Forum meeting in Apia in October.

“Solomon Islands has had no formal notification, of that trend, or the general feeling amongst Pacific Island countries of Mr Bainimarama being unwelcome to attend the Forum meeting in Tonga”, he said.

Mr Oti said he had met the Secretary General of the Forum Secretariat Mr Greg Urwin on two occasions during the past weeks, but the exclusion of Fiji from the Forum meeting has never been brought up.

Has this been the case, the Secretary General would have already made a media statement regarding the combined position of the Forum Island countries during those moments, he said.

Mr Oti said he would personally like to check the authenticity of Mr Downer’s statement.

“If it is true then there must be some way of an independent assessment of this general feeling as portrayed in Mr Downer’s statement”, he said.

He said Mr Urwin was in Solomon Islands last week in which he had the opportunity to talk with the Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare.

“I am absolutely clear that Mr Sogavare, in his exchange with Mr Urwin if indeed this subject was brought up, I do not think that there is any inclination on any part of the Prime Minister of Solomon Islands to say that he will support the ostracization of Fiji from the Forum, particularly the Summit Meeting in Tonga this year”, he said.

He said he cannot confirm whether Mr Sogavare will personally want to meet Mr Bainimarama at the next Forum meeting but hinted the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) meeting on September will be an ideal opportunity for the Melanesian leaders to exchange views on the upcoming Forum Summit in Tonga.

Mr Oti said by that time a new Prime Minister would have been put in place in Papua New Guinea, and that MSG leaders would have taken a collective position on the (Fiji) issue before the Forum Meeting.

Source: PMC

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