Samoa has defended the secretary general of the Pacific Islands Forum, Tuiloma Neroni Slade, following recent comments by Fiji's interim prime minister, Commodore Frank Bainimarama.
The Fiji leader had accused Mr Slade, who is Samoan, of going beyond his mandate by excluding Fiji from last month's regional trade ministers' talks in Apia.
Fiji delegates were left out because Fiji had been suspended from the Forum in May for its interim regime failing to commit to giving up power by holding elections this year.
A Samoan statement, carried by the Samoa Observer newspaper, says the suspension also included the exclusion of Fiji trade officials from technical trade meetings.
However, the statement says there is a case for including Fiji trade officials at technical trade talks, but that is not a decision for Mr Slade to make on his own.