15 Jul 2008

Meeting with Bainimarama 'useful', says Peters

2:54 pm on 15 July 2008

New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters describes a meeting in Suva on Tuesday with Fiji's interim leader, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, as "very useful", but has given few details.

Foreign ministers from Australia, New Zealand, Tonga, Papua New Guinea, Samoa and Tuvalu are in Fiji to press the interim government to honour promises to hold elections early in 2009.

Immediately after the meeting, Mr Peters said the group has to assess the discussions, and a formal statement will be made through the chairman of the Ministerial Group.

He said the group still has to meet other people in Fiji, including election officials, before making a judgment.

Last month, Fiji suspended talks with the Fiji Joint Working Group, citing New Zealand and Australia's "neo-colonial" attitudes as one reason.

Mr Peters had expressed concern about Fiji's withdrawal from the group, saying it was a sign that Fiji was moving away from its commitment to the election timetable.

Commodore Bainimarama says he wants to end corruption before polls can take place.

Fiji's interim attorney-general, Aiyaz Sayed Khayum said on Tuesday that New Zealand and Australia have been unwilling to engage in constructive discussions on democracy and described their position as "hypocritical".

The European Union said during the weekend that it had deep concerns that Fiji was pushing back the timeline for elections.

The military took power in Fiji in December 2006, making it the fourth coup since 1987.

Commodore Bainimarama told his soldiers last month that elections promised for early next year were unlikely to take place because corruption problems remained.