29 Nov 2006

Crisis talks on Fiji get under way in Wellington

9:41 am on 29 November 2006

Fiji's prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, says there are some difficult demands that need to be worked through with the military commander, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, at crisis talks today in Wellington.

The New Zealand-based talks were brokered by the Foreign Minister, Winston Peters, and the prime minister, Helen Clark over concerns that the situation in Fiji was deteriorating.

The commander has said that he wants the military's demands met and Mr Qarase should say yes to the non-negotiable issues.

These are believed to include the resignation of the police commissioner, Andrew Hughes, an end to the investigations into Commodore Bainimarama and others in the military over possible sedition and the dumping of controversial legislation.

Mr Qarase says the first two demands are the most difficult to deal with.

"If the government accedes to those demands, they virtually amount to the military usurping the powers of other government agencies. And, that's a threat to our democracy. It's something that people in Fiji would like to avoid, they do not want it to happen."

Mr Qarase says he hopes to discuss those issues very honestly with Commodore Bainimarama.

The prime minister also says the impasse has led to a warning by the U.N. secretary-general, Kofi Annan, that Fiji's participation in U.N. peacekeeping operations could end.

That is what he indicated, that the U.N. would consider very seriously terminating or at least suspending Fiji's participation in peacekeeping duties around the world. The impact of that would be enormous for Fiji, particularly for our troops and I'm just hoping that will not happen.

Mr Qarase says he does not believe he should resign and wants to deal with the problems.

Meanwhile, Commodore Bainimarama has told Rayaz Sayed Khaiyum of Indian station Radio Tarana in New Zealand of his concerns that Mr Qarase has asked for foreign assistance.

Commodore Bainimarama says the military will not stand for any foreign intervention and Mr Qarase had better be prepared to answer for its consequences.

.The meeting's going to be the shortest meeting he's ever attended in his life. He comes with a yes or a no to our demands, full stop. He's not here to debate about the issues. We've been debating about the issues for the last six years.