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Last Updated: Thursday, 5 August, 2004, 02:27 GMT 03:27 UK
Security tops South Pacific forum
By Phil Mercer
BBC correspondent in Sydney

Samoan Commerce Minister Joe Keil (left) and Pacific Forum Secretary General Greg Urwin (centre), a former Australian diplomat, talk in Apia
Leaders aim to agree a so-called Pacific Plan
Security along with greater economic and political integration is set to dominate a meeting of South Pacific countries in Samoa's capital, Apia.

Leaders of the region - which is home to some of the world's smallest and poorest nations - will discuss a plan for sustainable development.

Better governance and the spread of HIV and Aids will also be key issues.

The summit brings together 14 island nations, as well as regional powers Australia and New Zealand.

Reassessing priorities

The region has recently celebrated the first anniversary of the Australian-led military intervention in the Solomon Islands.

Pacific leaders have been encouraged by the success of the multinational rescue mission, which has restored stability.

At their summit, they will hope to build on this spirit of co-operation.

Australia would like to see greater economic and political integration in the Pacific, while also boosting security through more stringent border and immigration controls.

This past year has been the most active period since World War II for Australian foreign policy in the region.

Canberra is due to start deploying police officers and public servants to Papua New Guinea as early as next month.

The attacks in the United States in September 2001 and the Bali bombings just over a year later forced Australia to reassess its dealings with its neighbours.

The government insisted that failing states, such as the Solomon Islands, could become havens for extremists and international criminals.

Tackling poverty

Economic growth and the spread of HIV and Aids will also be key issues at the conference in Samoa.

It is estimated that in some South Pacific countries up to 30% of the population lives in poverty.

Geographic isolation, corruption and mismanagement have all hampered development.

The island nations, including Kiribati, the Federated States of Micronesia and Fiji, are spread over 20 million sq km (eight million sq m).

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