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Pacific leaders to tackle impact of global crisis.

Byline: AFP

CAIRNS: Leaders from around the Pacific region gathered here Tuesday ahead of a summit aimed at tackling the impact of the global economic crisis on some of the world s smallest and poorest nations.

The Fiji coup of 2006 has dominated the last three annual summits of the 16-member Pacific Islands Forum and Voreqe Bainimarama s military regime was suspended from the grouping in January for breaking promises to hold elections early this year.

The two-day summit starting Wednesday is sure to return to the subject of Bainimarama s refusal to loosen his hold on power but hosts Australia want to emphasise economic issues and climate change.

Australia s government aid agency AusAID released a report Monday showing poverty was worsening in the region and many nations were falling behind the UN Millennium Development poverty reduction goals.

"The Pacific region is seriously off track to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015," said Bob McMullan, Australia s parliamentary secretary for international development assistance.

"The people of the Pacific expect us all, donors and Pacific island governments alike, to do much better," McMullan said. Around 400,000 children across the region were not going to primary school and around 64 out of every 1,000 children in the region died before the age of five.

"Perhaps most worryingly, in some countries the number of mothers dying while giving birth is getting worse," he said. The report said the 14 Pacific island forum nations and donors needed to better coordinate their aid efforts, the report said.

Murray McCully, the foreign minister of New Zealand -- the other developed nation member of the forum -- took aim at slow progress in development efforts in a speech in Brisbane Monday.

He said little had been achieved since the forum attempted to better coordinate regional development under the Pacific Plan adopted in 2004.

"Five long years after the Pacific Plan was produced, identifying bulk fuel purchases as a means of assisting smaller Pacific states in countering mounting fuel prices, we still have no bulk fuel purchase scheme."

Muscat Press and Publishing House SAOC 2009

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Publication:Times of Oman (Muscat, Oman)
Date:Aug 5, 2009
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