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June 9, 1998

A suggestion has been made for cooperation links involving the Organization of American States (OAS), the African, Caribbean, Pacific (ACP) group of countries, the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Organisation of African Unity, among others on security and other matters of priority interest to small states. The OAS assistant secretary general, Ambassador Christopher R. Thomas, described the pursuit as a sort of "lateral approach to the inter-institutional commitment to the question."

The matter came up as Ambassador Thomas received a Commonwealth delegation led by the Barbados prime minister, Mr. Owen Arthur, at the OAS headquarters here on Thursday morning. Mr. Arthur is chairman of a Commonwealth ministerial committee looking into the small states issue.

Mr. Arthur, who is also Barbados' finance minister, was accompanied on the courtesy visit by the deputy secretary-general of the London-based Commonwealth, Sir Humphrey Maud; Lesotho's deputy prime minister and minister of agriculture, Kelebone A. Maope; the deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs and international trade of Mauritius, Rajkeswur Purryag; and New Zealand's minister of foreign affairs and trade, Don McKinnon.

"The Commonwealth is taking a particularly pointed interest in the matter at the moment," declared Ambassador Thomas, referring to the question of small states which has been taken up by a number of multilateral organizations in recent times. Ambassador Thomas referred to the OAS' own efforts, notably a high-level meeting in El Salvador this past February on security concerns raised by small states.

Other issues raised at that meeting included the need to revise the "Bretton Woods institutions"--the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund--to devote special attention to meeting specific needs of small states, similar to the reconstruction they spurred in Europe in the wake of World War Two.

Referring to the need for a task force "to ensure that the programs of the multilateral lending institutions address issues of small states outside the context only of per-capita income considerations," Mr. Arthur identified natural disasters and other phenomena to which small states are vulnerable as needing serious treatment by the international community through special programs.

He welcomed OAS initiatives, including its study on small states' security interests. Said he: "I feel that there is a gathering force that may make the time right for the small states of the world to properly focus their issues."

At the OAS also, the ministerial group met and exchanged views with Commonwealth ambassadors on the issues to be raised with the Bank and the Fund starting Friday. In attendance were the Washington-based ambassadors of Commonwealth countries, including the CARICOM.

The Commonwealth despatched the special ministerial group, established by the heads of government last October, on a one-week mission that will also take them to Geneva to meet with the World Trade Organisation, and to Brussels and London. They are seeking to alert the leaders of financial institutions to the economic, environmental and strategic vulnerability of small island and land-locked countries.

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