"That could be tomorrow, that could be next week, it could be in the next two years or more."

'Unconstitutional'

Meanwhile Fiji’s influential council of tribal chiefs has refused to recognise the country’s new military regime.

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"We respect your opinion, but do not interfere with the process that is currently under way"

Commodore Frank Bainimarama, Fijian military chief

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Following the bloodless coup, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, the Fijian military chief, said he had assumed the powers of the presidency.

However, on Thursday Ratu Ovini Bokini, the head of the politically-powerful Council of Chiefs, said the former president, Ratu Josefa Iloilo, remained the country’s head of state.

His comments came after Bainimarama ordered his troops to remove the country’s vice president from his office and official residence, a move Bokini said was "illegal, unconstitutional and most disrespectful".

Earlier on Wednesday armed troops had forcibly ejected Fijian senators from the parliament building in the capital, Suva.

Emergency

The senators had been in the midst of budgetary deliberations, apparently in defiance of Bainimarama’s announcement on Tuesday that he had ousted the elected government.

Bainimarama has warned against efforts to resist the military takeover and declared a state emergency because, he said, intelligence indicated some people were planning civil disruption.

"For those who do not agree with what we are doing, we respect your opinion, but do not interfere with the process that is currently under way.

"There is no point in debating the legality or otherwise of our actions. Qarase and his cronies are not coming back," he said, referring to the deposed prime minister, Laisenia Qarase.

He said the military wanted a peaceful transition to an interim administration and eventually elections that would restore democracy.