South Pacific Forum poised to suspend FijiMay 1st, 2009 - 3:11 pm ICT by IANS
Wellington, May 1 (DPA) The 16-member South Pacific Forum was poised Friday to suspend membership of Fiji, which has been ruled by military strongman Voreqe Bainimarama since he ousted the elected government in a bloodless coup 29 months ago.
A forum deadline to Bainimarama to name a date for fresh elections this year or face suspension was due to expire at midnight (noon GMT).
Bainimarama earlier shrugged off the threat, telling The Australian newspaper in an interview that there would be no elections until 2014 and emergency powers which have muzzled the media and banned political meetings would be extended.
Bainimarama was re-appointed prime minister three weeks ago after ailing President Ratu Josefa Iloilo dismissed judges of the Court of Appeal who declared the military regime illegal and revoked the constitution.
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key rejected a last-minute overture from Bainimarama for a summit meeting with him and Australia’s Kevin Rudd, saying he was a dictator and “does not want to listen anyone but himself”.
New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully said it seemed inevitable that Fiji would be suspended from the forum.
The British Commonwealth is expected to follow suit, depriving Fiji’s 840,000 people and its battered economy - already suffering after the European Union withheld aid to the struggling sugar industry - of badly needed assistance.
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