23 May 2003

Fiji negotiates deal with US on ICC

4:46 am on 23 May 2003

Fiji has recognised as legitimate a request from the United States that its citizens not be handed over to the newly-established International Criminal Court.

The foreign minister, Kaliopate Tavola, has confirmed that negotiations on a formal agreement are underway.

Once the bilateral agreement is signed, the US would also agree not to hand over Fiji citizens to the International Criminal Court.

Tonga, Tuvalu and Nauru have already signed such agreements with Washington as have Albania, Tajikistan, Romania and Israel.

The US is not a party to the Rome Treaty setting up the ICC because of fears that politically motivated charges may be brought against its citizens.

Mr Tavola says there are no direct linkages, but it's understood an agreement could mean the restoration of full military ties with the US and lead to the deployment of Fiji troops in Iraq.

Meanwhile, the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group has agreed to keep Fiji under watch until the outcome of the supreme court case on the multiparty cabinet next month.