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Pacific islands keep hardline against military-ruled Fiji


Pacific island leaders Thursday agreed to maintain their hardline stance against military-ruled Fiji but said they would keep the door open to dialogue with the major regional player.

After two days of talks in idyllic settings in Vanuatu, leaders from the 15-other Pacific Islands Forum countries said Fiji would remain suspended from the region's most important grouping until it moved towards democracy.

"The current decisions remain in force," Tonga's Prime Minister Feleti Sevele said at the conclusion of a leaders' retreat, which took place in Port Havannah, north of Port Vila.

Sevele said member states should keep engaged with Fiji, one of the most developed nations in the Pacific and a regional hub for transport, telecommunications and trade for many remote and impoverished islands.

Fiji, which has torn up its constitution and dismissed the judiciary since military strongman Voreqe Bainimarama seized power in 2006, was suspended from the forum in 2009 after reneging on a promise to hold elections.

Australia and New Zealand have strongly supported Fiji's suspension from the grouping, but its absence has prompted questions about the forum's relevance and its ability to help lift Pacific islanders out of poverty.

Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said the situation in Fiji, where newly introduced strict censorship rules threaten to shut down the country's oldest newspaper, had lately deteriorated.

"Regrettably things have not improved in Fiji," Smith told reporters, adding that countries would still seek to engage Fiji which is a key regional hub for transport and trade. "The forum wants to find a way for dialogue to bring Fiji back to democracy."

The forum's annual meeting has been hampered by the absence of Fiji -- a critical player in trade discussions -- as well as the leaders of Australia, the Solomon Islands and Tuvalu, a critical voice in climate change discussions, due to national elections.

Papua New Guinea's leader Michael Somare was also absent from the talks.

The forum, whose membership includes low-lying countries which fear rising sea levels could threaten their survival and lead to evacuations, said climate change remained the greatest threat to the people of the Pacific.

In a communique issued at the close of the two days of talks, it called for a "meaningful, legally binding agreement" on reducing the carbon emissions blamed for man-made climate change to be reached urgently.

Smaller island states such as Tuvalu and Kiribati have argued for a unified Pacific position on climate change, but the document gave no figure for reducing emissions or a deadline to do so.

Instead, some of the most vulnerable countries such as Niue and Kiribati, which this week complained they struggled to access billions of dollars in global funding designed to help mitigate and adapt to climate change, will meet in November ahead of global talks in Cancun, Mexico later this year.

Palau President Johnson Toribiong said climate change was the highest priority for smaller Pacific island states.

"We have to break the talk barrier... it should not stop the small island states from raising their hands and stomping their feet and speaking out loud," he said.

El contenido de las noticias que se presentan en esta sección es responsabilidad directa de las agencias emisoras de noticias y no necesariamente reflejan la posición del Gobierno de México en este u otros temas relacionados.


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