21 Aug 2008

Pacific leaders retreat begins in Niue

10:45 am on 21 August 2008

Pacific leaders at the regional summit in Niue go into retreat today in the one hotel on the island.

The Pacific Islands Forum summit has been dominated by the rift with Fiji, but other issues critical to the region will be aired at the private meeting.

New Zealand and Australia will be pushing for a clear statement from the leaders on the Fiji interim government's failure to attend the meeting and explain the decision not to meet a commitment made to the leaders at last year's summit to hold elections by March.

Other leaders are looking for a more pragmatic approach.

Kiribati's Anote Tong says it is important not to isolate Fiji.

He says when there are differences in the family then we want to be able to talk.

A communique will be produced at the end of the retreat and the leaders from the island countries will be looking for more assistance from Australia and New Zealand on issues such as climate change and to help facilitate the take up of renewable energy options.

They will also choose a new secretary general to head the Forum secretariat from three candidates, Samoa's Tuiloma Neroni Slade, the Cook Islands Foreign Minister Wilkie Rasmussen and the acting Secretary General, Tuvalu's Feleti Teo.