It is the first time Bainimarama has given a timetable for elections. He said a mini-budget would be announced on March 2.

"The precarious state of the nation's finances will be improved," Bainimarama said.

Authority

Frank Bainimarama toppled Laisenia Qarase, Fiji's prime minister, in a bloodless coup last December, claiming the government was corrupt.

 

"I think to have a civilian prime minister and a roadmap back to democracy is the right approach for Fiji"

Alexander Downer, Australia's foreign minister

Bainimarama took over executive authority from Ratu Josefa Iloilo, Fiji's president, shortly after the coup.

 

He dissolved parliament, declared a state of emergency and installed a military doctor with no political experience as caretaker prime minister.

 

He then reinstated Iloilo as president and named himself interim prime minister.

 

Bainimarama's statement comes after a report for the Pacific Islands Forum, the South Pacific region's 16-member bloc, called last year's coup "unconstitutional and unacceptable".

 

The investigation report, by an "emiment persons" group, said Bainimarama should immediately resign with a view to democratic elections being held within two years.

 

'Wait and see'

 

A former British colony, Fiji had its Commonwealth membership suspended in protest at the coup.

 

Alexander Downer, Australia's foreign minister, repeated his call for Bainimarama to step down.

 

"I think the idea of a military commander continuing to control the country is inappropriate," Downer said.

 

"I think to have a civilian prime minister and a road map back to democracy is the right approach for Fiji, but we'll just have to wait and see," he said, before Bainimarama's election announcement.