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Pacific bloc warns it could suspend Fiji

Pacific bloc warns it could suspend Fiji

South Pacific leaders warned Fiji on Thursday that they would consider suspending it from their key 16-nation regional forum if it fails to make progress toward holding democratic elections.
It was not clear if the warning from the Pacific Islands Forum would have any effect on Fiji's military leader, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, who has said he may pull out of the forum if it presses his country to bring back democracy too quickly.
Bainimarama, who took power in a bloodless coup in December 2006, pledged to leaders at the group's meeting last year that he would hold elections by March 2009. But he withdrew the pledge early this month saying he needed more time to reform what he calls a racist, unfair political system.
He then boycotted this week's forum meeting, saying Fiji was being pressured to hold elections too soon after the coup.
In a statement on Fiji issued Thursday at the forum meeting in Niue, the leaders said they "condemned the recent statements" from Fiji as inconsistent with its pledges made last year to hold elections and return to democracy.
The summit statement, released as leaders met behind closed doors, said they would consider holding a special meeting before year's end to review Fiji's progress toward elections. That meeting would include measures that might include suspending Fiji, the statement said, noting that regional states have signed a declaration to support democratic government.
The leaders also said Fiji's boycott of the meeting was "unacceptable."
It was the toughest language ever used by the grouping toward a member nation, reflecting the exasperation of leaders at Bainimarama's actions.
Forum chairman and Niue Premier Toke Talagi said it was important that the forum maintain its integrity as a regional organization.
New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark said considering suspension of a country was an unprecedented move for the grouping.
There was no immediate comment from Fiji on the statement.
The 16 nation Pacific Islands Forum comprises Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, the Cook Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, the Marshall Islands, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.


Updated : 2021-07-28 21:17 GMT+08:00