France a good partner in S Pacific, says Australia

17th December 2004, Comments 0 comments

NOUMEA, Dec 17 (AFP) - Australia's Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has declared France a key partner in the South Pacific during a brief visit to New Caledonia Friday.

NOUMEA, Dec 17 (AFP) - Australia's Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has declared France a key partner in the South Pacific during a brief visit to New Caledonia Friday.

"France is a good partner for Australia in the South Pacific region," Downer said, speaking in French.

"We are working together in some countries like for example in Vanuatu where we have aid and defence programmes," Downer told reporters.

He spent several hours in the New Caledonian capital Noumea Friday, during a South Pacific tour encompassing Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.

Canberra has adopted a more interventionist policy in the South Pacific in recent years, fearing the emergence of several lawless Pacific states could be used as havens for criminals and terrorist groups.

In 2003 Australia took the lead in a multinational assistance mission to the Solomons, which had threatened to become a failed state after four years of civil war.

Australia has also sent a team of government officials and police to Papua New Guinea, a northern neighbour troubled by insecurity and corruption, to reverse a steady decline in law and order despite some critics branding the initiative as neo-colonialism.

Asked about the risk of South Pacific countries possibly harbouring terrorist bases, Downer said Friday: "Australia does not have any information on the presence of terrorists in the region, but we must nevertheless develop some means of defence".

© AFP

Subject: French News

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