Fiji military flexes muscle

Exercises come as talks aimed at averting a possible coup end without agreement.

    Commodore Bainimarama has warned he will
    move to "clean up" Fiji's government


    The statement urged the public to exercise caution, but stressed that there was no cause for alarm should anyone see troops in full battle gear.
     
    Commodore Frank Bainimarama, the head of the Fijian military, has warned Australia and New Zealand not to interfere with the country’s affairs.
     
    He is threatening to "clean up" the government if Laisenia Qarase, the prime minister, does not agree to a range of demands.
     
    In October Australia sent three navy ships to waters near Fiji in a move Bainimarama described as a breach of sovereignty.
     
    'Progress'
     

    Qarase said talks in Wellington
    had made substantial progress

    In an apparent move to calm the growing crisis Bainimarama flew to the New Zealand capital, Wellington, on Wednesday for talks with Qarese.
     
    "We made substantial progress on the requests and demands from the military," Qarase told a Fiji radio station, shortly after the two men held their first face-to-face talks in 10 months.
     
    After more than two hours of talks, the meeting broke up without any formal agreement.
     
    However, Winston Peters, the New Zealand foreign minister who hosted the talks, said the two men had agreed to a "specific timetable" to continue working on their differences.
     
    Fiji has been hit by three coups over the past 19 years.
     
    'Threat to democracy'
     
    Qarase has said he sees room to maneuver out of the crisis, but that some of Bainimarama's demands, such as dropping criminal charges against him and other officers, would mean the military was overruling other government bodies.
     
    Such a position would be "a threat to our democracy", he told New Zealand's National Radio ahead of Wednesday's meeting.
     
    Qarase expressed hope that talks would continue when the two men returned to Fiji. Previously he said that the country’s fate rested on the outcome of the talks.
     
    The feud between Qarase and Bainimarama goes back almost two years with the military commander accusing the prime minister of corruption.
     
    Qarase in turn has tried to have Bainimarama replaced, but failed to remove him last month after senior military officers rallied around their commander.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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