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Saturday, June 16, 2007

Howard urged Fiji's neighbours in the South Pacific to apply diplomatic pressure for a return to democracy following Fiji's explusion of Green

Australian Prime Minister John Howard has called on Pacific nations to press for the removal of Fiji's interim regime, following talks with New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark.

The two leaders met in Sydney yesterday amid an escalating diplomatic crisis sparked by the expulsion of New Zealand's high commissioner from Suva.

Interim Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama said Thursday he was expelling the envoy, Michael Green, for interfering in Fiji's domestic affairs.

The interim regime however remains mum on the specifics surrounding Green's expulsion.

Describing Bainimarama's government as "an undemocratic, arbitrary, pre-emptive regime," Howard urged Fiji's neighbours in the South Pacific to apply diplomatic pressure for a return to democracy.

"At every point of contact, Fiji has to be reminded that its regime is undemocratic -- that friendly countries, as well as those that have a more formal relationship with Fiji, do not approve of what has happened," he said.

He said all nations wanted "clear evidence" that Fiji was willing to return to democracy as soon as possible.

Clark said she had received "tremendous solidarity" from Australia over the issue, which she said cast doubt on Fiji's seriousness about returning to democratic government.

Both New Zealand and Australia have been vocal critics of Fiji's military regime since Bainimarama toppled the elected government in a bloodless coup in December last year.

They have imposed sanctions on the military government -- including travel bans against regime officials -- and New Zealand plans to expand these following the expulsion.

Clark described the move against the ambassador as totally unacceptable and an "absolute disgrace", saying Green had done nothing except express the New Zealand government's position on the coup.

The New Zealand prime minister said Fiji had tried to use Green as a bargaining chip and suggested he could stay if New Zealand dropped the travel bans on regime officials and the military.

She described the offer as "delusional, risible and bizarre."

New Zealand's ministry of foreign affairs on Friday warned New Zealanders in Fiji to exercise caution following the deterioration in relations between the two countries.

But Bainimarama said that as far as he was concerned, diplomatic relations with New Zealand remained intact.

"There is no severance of relationship here -- it's only Mr Green as a person, given his persistent interference in Fiji's domestic affairs," he said in a statement.

Source: Fijilive

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