Fiji to exclude NZ from talks

The attorney-general in Fiji's military-led government says it will hold its own forum to discuss elections but New Zealand will not be invited.

Radio New Zealand International today reported that Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum had invited United Nations and Commonwealth officials to Fiji's election forum.

He was commenting after this week's Pacific Islands Forum summit in Niue told Fiji it could be suspended from the forum if it did not meet its promise to hold elections by March next year.

Fiji is already suspended from the Commonwealth but still receives technical assistance from the London-based grouping of countries.

While Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said Fiji was willing to enter constructive talks with New Zealand, it would not be invited to the election forum in Fiji.

"Why should it be? This is a problem that is a Fijian problem," he told Radio New Zealand International.

"It is all the Fijian political parties ... all the registered political parties will participate and discuss the electoral reform that has been suggested."

Fiji has been ruled by self-appointed prime minister Commodore Voreqe (Frank) Bainimarama since he staged a bloodless coup in December 2006.

Last year he promised forum leaders he would hold elections by March 2009, but in recent weeks he has gone back on his word, saying he first wants to change the country's electoral system.

Pacific Islands Forum leaders on Thursday said the situation in Fiji would continue to be monitored and a ministerial contact group would prepare a new report on election preparations before the end of the year.

When that report had been received there would be another forum summit meeting where measures, including suspension, would be considered, they said.

Cdre Bainimarama refused to attend the Niue meeting, claiming he had been denied the opportunity to hold post-summit talks in Auckland because of travel sanctions imposed by New Zealand.

Prime Minister Helen Clark has rejected his excuse.

Cdre Bainimarama yesterday said that every Fiji citizen must now ask, "Are we going to be bullied and pressured into doing things that are clearly not in our national interest?"

He warned other Pacific Island leaders "to be vigilant to protect the forum organisation becoming a foreign policy tool" of Australia and New Zealand.

- NZPA

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