20 Jan 2009

Fiji pulls out of PNG Pacific Islands Forum

5:28 pm on 20 January 2009

Fiji's interim prime minister, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, has decided not to attend next week's Pacific Islands Forum Special Meeting in Papua New Guinea's capital, Port Moresby.

In a statement, Commodore Bainimarama says he has placed the interest of the nation and those affected by the recent floods at the forefront.

He says he has written to the Forum chair, Toke Talagi of Niue, and asked for the Port Moresby meeting to be deferred.

The gathering to discuss the Fiji post-coup situation had been called at the Niue Forum summit last August when Fiji boycotted the event.

The Forum communique threatened Fiji with suspension of its membership amid the interim regime's refusal to honour an earlier commitment to organise elections by March.

While Fiji has repeatedly restated that it won't hold elections this year, some Forum members now appear to distance themselves from the Forum position, saying there should be no talk of suspending Fiji.

The interim regime wants the electoral system to be changed before any return to democracy but it is yet to say when it plans to relinquish power.