7 Feb 2006

Fiji military denies claims it pressured president to stay on

9:15 am on 7 February 2006

Fiji's military has dismissed suggestions that it pressured the president and its commander-in-chief, Ratu Josefa Iloilo, to stay on for another term.

Radio Fiji reports that 85-year-old President Iloilo has indicated his willingness to serve another term in office when the Great Council of Chiefs meets next month to appoint the head of state and the vice president.

The radio says the president's decision has raised eyebrows but no one in authority is willing to discuss his surprise decision last week.

It quotes the military spokesman, Captain Neumi Leweni, as saying President Iloilo's decision has been made without any interference from the military.

Radio Fiji quotes its sources as saying that the influence of the military commander, Commodore Bainimarama, forced the president to put up his name for reappointment, despite his age and ailing health.

But Captain Leweni has disputed such claims saying the military did not pressure President Iloilo.

He says the matter is best left to the Great Council of Chiefs as it is sensitive.

Under the constitution, the Great Council appoints the president and the vice president after consultations with the prime minister.