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Asia-Pacific
Fiji PM to meet army chief
The prime minister of Fiji plans emergency talks with the military chief to avert a coup.
Last Modified: 28 Nov 2006 04:46 GMT


Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama has accused the government of corruption and lying

Laisenia Qarase, Fiji's prime minister, is to hold a last-ditch summit with the Pacific island nation's military commander amid fears of a coup.
 
Qarase, who announced his "special mission" on Tuesday, said that he will meet Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama on Wednesday in Wellington, New Zealand, where the commander is on a private trip.
Qarase said: "I have always said that I am ready to meet directly with Commodore Bainimarama, and to do so with an open mind. I am ready to listen to the commander on the concerns of the military."
 
Bainimarama had warned of a government "clean-up" if it did not bow to his non-negotiable demands.

Bainimarama had been due to return to Fiji on Tuesday, but the summit was scheduled after Winston Peters, New Zealand's foreign minister, met the military chief.

Glimmer of hope

Qarase said he was grateful to the New Zealand government for arranging the talks, which offer some hope that an attempt to overthrow Fiji's elected government could be prevented.

Prosecutors in Fiji were due to say on Tuesday whether or not sedition charges were to be brought against Bainimarama over his threats to oust the government.

Bainimarama has accused the government of corruption and lying, and has threatened to force it to resign, prompting a failed bid by the government to replace him at the end of last month.

Meanwhile, troops are patrolling the streets of the Fiji capital Suva in what the military described as exercises, as Pacific island foreign  ministers prepared to meet in Sydney on Friday in a bid to avert a coup.

However, Alexander Downer, Australia's foreign minister, said earlier on Tuesday that he was not hopeful the country's fourth coup in 20 years  could be averted.

Downer said: "I hope that this meeting will make a useful contribution, but I still remain fairly pessimistic on the basis of what we know about  Commodore Bainimarama's plans and preparations."

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