12 Apr 2007

Fiji military land force commander warns Australia and NZ

6:46 pm on 12 April 2007

The Land Force Commander of Fiji's military, Colonel Pita Driti, has told his troops he would close Australia and New Zealand's diplomatic missions in the capital Suva if he could.

Colonel Driti made the comments to 233 Fiji soldiers preparing to leave for the United Nations Assistance Mission to Iraq on April 23.

There has been recent criticism in both Australia and New Zealand of a UN decision to continue to include Fijian troops in peacekeeping missions.

The critics argue the global community must use all possible avenues to sanction the military regime for its illegal coup.

Colonel Driti said he wanted Australia and New Zealand diplomats out of Fiji because of the stance they had taken over the peacekeeping issue.

Both countries have imposed sanctions on Fiji's interim military-appointed government, after the armed forces overthrew the elected government of Laisenia Qarase last December.

Colonel Driti told the troops that they must be careful with how they conduct operations while Australia and New Zealand are observing and trying to stop future participation.