13 Mar 2006

Fiji at centre of MSG summit in Vanuatu

2:11 pm on 13 March 2006

It's likely Fiji will come under pressure from its closest neighbours over security and trade concerns at a regional

foreign ministers' meeting in the Vanuatu today.

The special meeting of the four-nation Melanesian Spearhead Group is likely to deal with tensions caused by the presence of former Fijian special forces soldiers into the Papua New Guinea island of


The three-day meeting was called by PNG Foreign Minister Sir Rabbie Namaliu, the group's current chairman, amid reports that Fijian mercenaries were training armed militia in Bougainville.

The ministers will also address decisions by Fiji to ban imports of key goods from PNG and Vanuatu,

The interim chairman of the MSG Secretariat in Port Vila, Johnny Koanapo, told the AFP news agency the possible use of force to deal with the mercenaries is one option.

Mr Koanapo said this week's talks would review the current visa-free system between MSG member countries in light of what he called the abuse of the practice by the Fijians, who apparently entered Bougainville claiming to be missionaries.

Other issues to be raised include evaluating the Australian-led peacekeeping force sent to the Solomon Islands in 2003 to end ethnic unrest there and the Pacific Plan for closer regional integration.