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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Tense situation in Fiji as the Prime Minister prepares to meet with President amid coup fears

Things are becoming tense and anxiety has filled the atmosphere in Fiji, as the Fiji Prime Minister prepares to meet the President, Ratu Josefa Iloilo in a few minutes from now at 4pm (Fiji time) before holding a press since the government's failed attempt to oust the army commander yesterday.

The agenda of the meeting at Government House is not clear at this stage. But earlier today the Prime Minister said he will reveal details of the discussions by the National Security Council and Cabinet on the current situation later in the afternoon.

It is understood that PM Laisenia Qarase summoned Police Commissioner Andrew Hughes to brief the special meetings this morning. Cabinet ministers who met with Qarase this morning are tight-lipped referring all questions to the Prime Minister.

It is anticipated that army chief Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama's latest threat to "remove Qarase and his cronies" was discussed at length during the hour long meeting.

Qarase is believed to have told Ratu Iloilo yesterday that if Military Commander Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama is not sacked, his Government will resign. It has been reported that the Government's threat to resign is believed to have triggered the President to act and call for Bainimarama to step down and be replaced by another senior officer Lt Col Meli Saubulinayau. But Saubulinayau has rejected the offer and the Military says it is firmly behind Bainimarama. This puts the Government in a dilemma now on whether to quit or stay on, just two days before the handing down of the 2007 national Budget and the deadline of the threat by the Fiji military.

Meanwhile, just this morning the Fiji military had forcefully removed a seven tonnes of ammunition from the Suva Wharf, which has irritated Fiji's Police Commissioner Andrew Hughes.

Mr Hughes said this was done without his approval and now wants an answer from deputy military Commander Captain (Navy) Esala Teleni. However, Teleni later stated that the military had received the import licence in May. Teleni also added that he did not need police approval to get the ammo.

Speaking from the Middle East this morning, Fiji military commander Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama has once again called on the Government to resign. He said the last thing he wanted was violence and that Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase should be held responsible if that were to happen.

"Now that they have failed to remove me all that needs to be done is for the Government to resign gracefully. If it does not happen, the military does not want any violence," he told from Iraq.

Bainimarama added that his outburst against the Government was not only regarding the contentious Bills but also because of the corrupt people in Government. "They have to be removed," he said.

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