Monday, September 05, 2011

More on South Pacific Forum

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Fiji to remain excluded from forum

By Tamara McLean in Auckland
From: AAP
September 06, 2011 1:09PM

SMALL Pacific nations have agreed Fiji should remain excluded from the peak regional body until the military-led nation makes solid steps towards democracy.
A meeting of nine countries last week concluded that Fiji, suspended from the Pacific Islands Forum in 2009, should be invited to rejoin.

But New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said today that none of these Melanesian or Micronesian leaders had conveyed these views to him, and instead supported the current hard-line stance of sanctions and exclusion.

"I think the consensus view very much is that the forum's position of excluding Fiji should be maintained," Mr Key told journalists following a meeting with the small island states.

"However, everyone wanted to see democracy restored as quickly as possible."

He said a number of leaders, far from defending Fiji's military regime, were concerned that elections promised by leader Commodore Frank Bainimarama for two years time may not happen.

"There was a view expressed by a number that they're anxious to see Frank Bainimarama will actually carry out his commitment to hold elections in 2014 given that the commodore has let down the forum on a number of occasions," he said.

Fiji was suspended following Bainimarama's failure to restore democracy in the wake of the 2006 coup.

In a meeting in Nadi last week, the commodore appeared to garner support from the Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

In a communique, the group endorsed Bainimarama's plan to delay elections until 2014 and indicated it would push Australia and New Zealand to agree.

However, history has shown small island states do not necessarily go into bat for Fiji with regional superpowers offering much-needed aid and trade opportunities.

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