Bainimarama said he would surrender presidential powers next week, when Fiji's Great Council of Chiefs would be asked to reappoint Ratu Josefa Iloilo to the presidency.

"The takeover will not be permanent"

Commodore Frank Bainimarama,
head of Fiji's military

"I did not think it was in Australia's national interest to become involved"

John Howard,
prime minister of Australia

"The takeover will not be permanent, tomorrow I will summon the chief executive officers and charge them with the duty of running their own ministries until an interim government is appointed," he said.

"We trust that the new government will lead us into peace and prosperity and mend the ever-widening racial divide which currently besets our multi-cultural nation."

Earlier Qarase had told Fiji radio that his house had been surrounded by heavily-armed troops and his transport confiscated.

Powerless

He said that after the military disarmed the country's police force he was powerless to stop a military takeover.

In Canberrra John Howard, the prime minister of Australia, said he had turned down a request from Qarase for military help.

The military takeover is Fiji's fourth coup in 20 years

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"I did not think it was in Australia's national interest to
become involved. The possibility of Australian and Fijian troops firing on each other in the streets of Suva was not a prospect that I, for a moment, thought desireable," Howard said.

Australia had sent three warships to the waters off Fiji in case it needed to evacuate its nationals from the country.

Bainimarama had warrned that his soldiers would oppose with force any attempt at foreign intervention in the crisis.

'Clean up'

Bainimarama has been engaged in a long-running stand-off with Qarase’s government, claiming it is corrupt and has been soft on those behind a previous coup in 2000.

Bainimarama has said elections will be
held to restore democratic rule
He has repeatedly warned that unless Qarase agreed to a series of military demands he would carry out a "clean up" of the government.

On Monday troops moved in to disarm the country’s police tactical unit, the only division of the police allowed to carry weapons.

Bainimarama said the move was intended to avoid the police using their weapons against the military.

In the following hours large numbers of troops were deployed across Suva, setting up roadblocks and checking vehicles, apparently looking for members of Qarase’s government.

Roadblocks were also set up in other major towns, including the main tourist hub of Nadi.

Qarase, who won a second term in office in May elections, had said earlier that Bainimarama’s threats to topple him amount to treason.