Report – Rachel Reeves in Rarotonga
The US State Department is still refusing to confirm whether or not Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will turn up in the Cook Islands next week.
But there are a few telling signs. Clinton’s accommodation has been booked (a private home), her security convoy has already arrived, and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has extended her stay so as to catch Clinton on the tail end of her trip – to indicate she is factoring the Forum into her schedule.
Rumours that husband and former US president Bill Clinton will accompany her are as yet unsubstantiated.
Cook Islands News has confirmation, however, that Clinton’s security guards have already checked in.
“A number of American people who have an involvement in (Hillary Clinton’s) possible visit will have arrived by the time this goes to print,” media liaison officer Derek Fox said today.
“I think there is a bit of pussy-footing around but in reality people are planning for her arrival.”
Fox said he had no knowledge of whether Hillary would be bringing Bill in tow.
While Clinton and other high-profile leaders are likely to be travelling with their own security personnel, Fox emphasises that security arrangements are the responsibility of the Cook Islands Police (and the New Zealand officers sworn in to assist them during the Forum).
“It’s expected that a number of leaders including for New Zealand and Australia – and Clinton, if she comes – will have personal security but official security arrangements are up to the Cook Islands police,” he said.
Clinton is likely to arrive next Thursday afternoon aboard her own aircraft, and to breakfast with Pacific leaders the following morning in Avarua.
American media has speculated that developments in the Middle East could potentially derail Clinton’s plans to attend the post-Forum dialogue.
Rachel Reeves is political reporter of the Cook Islands News.