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Fiji's prime minister goes into hiding following coup threat

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  • Guest 123
    Police yesterday confirmed that Fiji's ousted prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, was under investigation for possible treason following a desperate call for help he made to the Prime Minister, John Howard, at the height of the coup in December.

    A police spokesman said the issue had become public on Friday and was being dealt with by the assistant commissioner, crime, Jo Rafiga.

    Mr Qarase, who has been on his home island of Vanua Balavu in the Lau group after he was tipped from power on December 5, has released a statement categorically denying he asked Mr Howard for military intervention.

    "I don't know what sort of evidence they [police] will get to support that [allegation]," Mr Qarase told the news service Fiji Live.

    Before December's coup Mr Qarase was trying to get the coup leader, and now President, Commodore Frank Bainimarama prosecuted for sedition.

    On December 5 Mr Qarase said he had called Mr Howard but suggestions he had asked for military help were "only an interpretation". "He [Mr Howard] said Australia would not intervene and I told him I appreciated the difficulties and thanked him for discussing it with me," he said.

    However, Mr Howard said on Melbourne radio on December 8 that he had received a request for military intervention. "To respond to a request for military intervention in a situation like Fiji, it is something that would have been carefully planned," he said.

    Former Fijian PM may be charged with treason

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  • Guest 123
    WASHINGTON, Dec 19 (Reuters) - The United States has suspended aid to Fiji in response to a bloodless military coup that deposed the South Pacific island nation's elected prime minister, the U.S. State Department said on Tuesday.

    "This decision covers approximately $2.5 million in primarily military-related assistance," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said in a statement announcing the suspension.

    The decision also prevents any new U.S. economic assistance programs for Fiji, the statement said.

    The United States reiterates its condemnation of the Fiji military's overthrow and calls for restoration of the elected government, McCormack said.

    The United States temporarily suspended aid to Fiji on Dec. 5 after Fiji's military took over in the country's fourth coup in 20 years.

    Under law, the U.S. government must cut off aid to countries where there has been a coup or a coup attempt, although the requirement can be waived if necessary.

    U.S. suspends aid to Fiji in response to coup

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  • Guest 123
    FIJI seems certain to lose its chairing role of the Pacific Islands Forum - a premier political and economic organisation in the region.

    In his first statement since military leader Commodore Frank Bainimarama seized presidential powers in the Pacific island country, forum secretary-general Greg Urwin said the position of Fiji in the organisation was under consideration.

    Mr Urwin also expressed his deep regret over the December 5 developments in Fiji.

    "As the actions of the Republic of Fiji military forces now prevent Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase from exercising his leadership of the Fiji Government, and have also made it impossible as a matter of practicality for him to fulfil his duties as forum chair at the present time, forum leaders are considering an alternative chairing arrangement,'' he said.

    Mr Urwin said forum members had expressed their collective commitment to upholding democratic processes and institutions in forum member countries.

    "Forum members wish to assist Fiji move swiftly and peacefully toward the restoration of democratic government, within the boundaries of Fiji's constitution and the rule of law,'' he said.

    Mr Urwin said the impacts of the coup were already beginning to have serious consequences, not only for the economy and the welfare of the people of Fiji, but also (for) the international reputation of Fiji and the region as a whole.

    "The crisis in Fiji must be resolved through negotiation, within the constitution and with respect for the rule of law,'' he said.

    Mr Urwin said the good offices of the forum were available to help further dialogue between the government and Fiji military toward a peaceful resolution of the situation.

    "The forum is consulting with the (military)-installed regime and other relevant stakeholders in Fiji to ascertain their willingness to speak with a forum eminent persons group to be convened as soon as possible, as mandated by forum foreign ministers on December 1,'' he said.

    The Pacific Islands Forum (PIF), formerly the South Pacific Forum until a name change in October 2000, was founded in August 1971 and comprises 16 independent and self-governing states in the Pacific.

    The PIF is the regions' premier political and economic policy organisation.

    Forum leaders meet annually to develop collective responses to regional issues.

    The last meeting was in late-October in Fiji, attended by Prime Minister John Howard.

    Political forum considers dumping Fiji

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  • Guest 123
    Fiji's Tourism Action Group (TAG), which led the hard-hit industry's recovery after the 2000 coup d'etat, has been reactivated to deal with the present crisis.

    Its focus will be on the major markets of Australia and New Zealand, a statement from the Fiji Islands Visitors Bureau said.

    TAG will meet with Fiji tourism industry representatives on Friday "and expects to be able to assist with a quick recovery with industry support," the statement added.

    A secretariat has been established at the bureau's head office in Nadi (email

    TAG was formed after the 2000 coup led by George Speight - later jailed for life - and successfully led tourism back to its position as Fiji's top money-earner.

    The recovery began with a meeting in Sigatoka, on the mid-south coast, attended by foreign diplomats as well as tourism and aviation industry leaders.

    A Fiji Indian businessman, Damend Gounder of Nadi, is again chairman of TAG which will have two subcommittees, one for international marketing and the other dealing with relations with government, and overseas embassies and high commissions.

    Australia and New Zealand, the two main suppliers of tourists to Fiji, and other countries, have issued warnings against their citizens visiting the island nation following the takeover of government last week by military leader Commodore Frank Bainimarama.

    Tourist numbers are estimated to be 25 per cent down with resorts and airlines reporting numerous cancellations over the last ten days.

    Spokespersons for Fiji resorts, most of which are in the far west of the main island, say their activities are unaffected by the coup in the capital Suva, 200km away.

    Group called up to save Fiji's tourism

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  • Guest 123
    Fiji's military regime has warned deposed prime minister Laisenia Qarase he could be sent to an island prison if he returns to the capital, Suva.

    Qarase said on Saturday he planned to return to the capital early this week from his home island in Fiji's remote Lau group, where he fled after military commander Frank Bainimarama seized power last Tuesday.

    He has called for peaceful opposition to the coup, but Land Force commander Pita Driti said the army was prepared for any confrontation the former prime minister's arrival may spark.

    The military has warned Qarase could end up on Nukulau Island, just off Suva, where 2000 coup leader George Speight is serving a life term for treason.

    "It's good that we've known his intentions and there is a possibility that we could remove him from his home island in Vanuabalavu and take him straight to Nukulau Island Prison if he still wants to create trouble," Driti told the Fiji Sun newspaper.

    "If not, we will wait for him to arrive in Suva and we will deal with him."

    Qarase said he expected to be arrested and questioned by the military regime, but army spokesman Major Neumi Leweni said he could not predict Bainimarama's reaction.

    "As far the military force is concerned, he's coming back just as a citizen," Leweni said. "I could not say at the moment what the commander's reaction will be."

    Qarase said several of his parliamentary colleagues had been taken in for questioning by the army but he would not be intimidated.

    The army confirmed it was rounding up dissenters and taking them to Queen Elizabeth Barracks for questioning, in what it says is a bid to avoid civil unrest.

    Fiji's Human Rights Commission said it was investigating the military's treatment of former government minister Kenneth Zinck at the barracks on Wednesday.

    Zinck was taken from a Suva nightclub by soldiers after he was overheard by Bainimarama's brother making negative comments about the military commander.

    He has told Legend Radio that within five minutes, the soldiers had come in to the club and taken him to the barracks where he was made to run around an oval while four soldiers ran behind him with guns pointed at his back.

    "Intimidatory tactics do not help the situation at all if he (Bainimarama) wants peace, calm and harmony in the country."

    Other senior figures in Qarase's Sosoqoso Duavata ni Lewenivanua (SDL) party, including national director Peceli Kinivuwai, have been taken to the military camp, according to the Fiji Times.

    The military is still searching for finance ministry chief Paula Uluinaceva who has been missing since Tuesday's coup.

    The military believes Uluinaceva is still in the country and has called on him to give himself up.

    Qarase warned he may be sent to prison

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  • Guest 123
    The Commonwealth suspended Fiji's membership yesterday in protest at this week's military coup - the third time in 20 years that the Pacific nation has been suspended because of military takeovers.

    The decision was made by an action group of foreign ministers from several countries, including Britain, meeting in London. As a result, Fiji will be banned from all Commonwealth meetings until democracy is restored. Technical assistance programmes will also be suspended.

    It came as witnesses reported hearing sustained gunfire from inside Fiji's main military barracks this morning, four days after the army overthrew the government. Residents of the capital, Suva, told Reuters they heard gunfire in the Queen Elizabeth barracks, which continued for 30 minutes. The military later described it as "an unscheduled shooting exercise".

    On Tuesday, Fiji's military commander, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, announced that he had taken control, saying the prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, was corrupt and had been too lenient towards the plotters of a coup in 2000.

    The Commonwealth secretary general, Don McKinnon, said all member countries have been asked to put pressure on Fiji to restore democracy. "The Commonwealth ministerial action group unanimously and unequivocally condemned the military takeover of Fiji's democratically elected government, in total disregard of the authority of the prime minister and parliament," he said yesterday.

    Mr McKinnon added that he hoped the crisis would be resolved peacefully. "Just because this was a bloodless coup, it doesn't always remain that way," he said.

    Margaret Beckett, the foreign secretary, has condemned the coup as "wholly unconstitutional" and "a major setback" to the island's process of democracy.

    Fiji was suspended from the Commonwealth in 1987 after a coup, and was readmitted in 1997. The state was also suspended in 2000 after Commodore Bainimarama declared martial law, and readmitted a year later.

    Commonwealth suspends Fiji after coup

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  • Guest 123
    Deposed Fijian prime minister Laisenia Qarase says Fijians are planning peaceful protests against this week's coup and could force the new military regime to back down within weeks.

    An influential council of chiefs has expressed anger over the bloodless coup, four days after military leader Commodore Frank Bainimarama seized power.

    Meanwhile, the regime has conceded that plans to "clean up" corrupt government and reinstall the temporarily ousted president will take longer than expected.

    Mr Qarase says anger among Fijians at the take-over is likely to lead to passive protests and civil disobedience before Christmas.

    "Some groups are getting organised and that could be a very effective means if a lot of people come out and express their anger and disgust over this illegal takeover," he said.

    "I think it will happen soon because the feeling of anger is high, the feeling of disappointment, so it would probably be better to do it earlier rather than later."

    Bloodshed feared

    Commodore Bainimarama has threatened to crack down on any uprising with force.

    He has said people are entitled to disagree with the military's actions but he would crush any uprising or incitement to revolt.

    On Wednesday, Commodore Bainimarama said intelligence had revealed plans to disrupt the peace and warned: "If we are pushed to use force, let me state we will do so very quickly".

    Mr Qarase says demonstrations would have to be managed carefully to ensure there is no bloodshed.

    He says there is no cause for the military to use their arms against protesters.

    "They can't shoot people without provocation," he said.

    "Even with provocation, why should they shoot people? Because the people don't have any arms or ammunition."

    Mr Qarase says he wants to be involved in any peaceful movement to restore democracy.

    New Zealand and Australian leaders have called for passive resistance and civil disobedience by Fijians.


    Fiji's capital, Suva, remains tense after Commodore Bainimarama tightened his grip on power by dismissing senior police chiefs and top public servants, who refused to cooperate with the military regime.

    Troops patrol Suva and have set up checkpoints on main roads in and out of the city.

    When announcing the coup, Commodore Bainimarama said it was planned that the indigenous body that appoints the president, the Great Council of Chiefs (GCC), would meet next week to reappoint president Ratu Josefa Iloilo

    But the GCC has instead condemned the coup and cancelled the meeting next week, leaving the military leader to continue filling the role of President.

    Protests planned against Fiji coup: Qarase

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  • Guest 123
    Fiji's deposed Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase has called on public servants not to obey the instructions of the new military regime.

    In a radio interview this morning, he said there is a good chance the military coup led by Commodore Frank Bainimarama will fail.

    Mr Qarase sounded defiant, insisting that any instructions given by the military-backed government are illegal.

    He has also encouraged people to take part in acts of passive resistance in order to protect democracy and the rule of law.

    As far as he is concerned, he is still the Prime Minister and any public servants who obey the army will be breaking the law.

    "If they follow the orders of the military, they would be acting under an illegal authority," he said.

    "There is only one legal authority in the country at this point, and that is the democratically elected government which I lead."

    Meanwhile the United Nations (UN) Security Council has called for the early reinstatement of Fiji's democratically elected government.

    Members of the 15-member UN Security Council have said in a statement they hope "the democratically elected government (of Mr Qarase) will be reinstated as soon as possible".

    The statement, read out by Qatar's UN Ambassador Nasser Abdulaziz al-Nasser, also urges restraint and "a peaceful solution in accordance with Fiji's constitution".

    It says the Council welcomes and backs "efforts by the Pacific Islands Forum and other regional and international entities to resolve this situation in a peaceful and last manner".

    Don't obey military regime, Qarase pleads

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  • Guest 123
    Fiji's military chief, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, has placed advertisements in the country's newspapers calling on people to apply to be part of his caretaker government.

    The military chief who led the coup says he is calling on people who have the welfare of the nation at heart to apply for a position in his interim government.

    Commodore Bainimarama says he has already been contacted by people who are interested in rebuilding Fiji.

    "We have already received written applications from some and we are receiving a lot more phone calls from people offering their services to be part of the caretaker government," he said.

    Commodore Bainimarama says he will also appoint a team of investigators to examine alleged corruption within Fiji's elected government.

    Church statement

    Meanwhile one of Fiji's christian churches has accused Commodore Bainimarama of being dictatorial, manipulative, threatening and intimidating the nation.

    The Christian Mission Fellowship says it strongly opposes the overthrowing of the democratically elected government.

    In a statement, the church says Commodore Bainimarama's coup is the manifestation of darkness and evil and it has appealed to the military chief to hand back power to the elected government.

    The Christian Mission Fellowship says it believes the cycle of coup culture in Fiji must be broken because it is based on lies and deception.

    Fiji coup leader looks to fill government positions

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  • Guest 123
    Fiji's armed forces have staged the country's fourth coup in 20 years after a long-running political crisis.

    The bloodless seizure of power - ending weeks of tension between the military commander and the Prime Minister - was played out in a typically leisurely Melanesian fashion, and resulted in immediate international sanctions.

    Commodore Frank Bainimarama said yesterday he had temporarily assumed the country's presidency and sacked Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase and his ministers, who he accused of bribery and corruption.

    "We consider that Fiji has reached a crossroads and that the government and all those empowered to make decisions in our constitutional democracy are unable to make decisions to save our people from destruction," he told a press conference yesterday.

    The Commodore claimed the government, which had won a second five-year term in May, was too lenient with those behind Fiji's last coup in 2000. He had first threatened to overthrow Mr Qarase in July last year.

    The Prime Minister, who is under house arrest, has refused to resign. He had previously asked Australia and New Zealand to send troops to Fiji to prevent the coup but was refused.

    The Commonwealth's secretary general, Don McKinnon, warned that Fiji faced suspension from the 53-nation organisation which champions democratic principles. The country was suspended in 1987 and 2000 following military interventions.

    "The likelihood of Fiji to be suspended is very high," said Mr McKinnon, a New Zealander who convened a meeting of eight Commonwealth foreign ministers in London on Friday which is expected to take the decision to suspend Fiji. Britain immediately suspended bilateral and military assistance, although it has no troops in Fiji. The Foreign Secretary, Margaret Beckett, said the coup was, "a major setback to the process of democracy in Fiji".

    The political crisis has alarmed countries in the region and Australia sent three warships to Fiji in case its nationals had to be evacuated. The unrest follows trouble in the nearby Solomon Islands.

    New Zealand's Prime Minister, Helen Clarke, attacked the "arrogance" of Commodore Bainimarama, saying she could only conclude he was, "severely deluded". "He called on people not to break the law - the military commander has just ripped up Fiji's constitution and chucked it out the window," she said.

    New Zealand, which hosted crisis talks between the two Fijians last week, joined Australia in suspending defence ties with Fiji and barred those involved with the coup from entering either country. A ban on sporting contacts is also possible in the future.

    Heavily armed troops set up roadblocks throughout the capital Suva and in Nadi, the tourism hub in the west of the main island of Viti Levu.

    Last night, the situation in Suva was described as calm but uncertain by Romanu Naceva, a former sergeant major in the Royal Artillery and head of the British Servicemen's Families Association.

    "What has happened is regrettable, it's illegal but what can we do? The only support the commodore has had is within his own establishment," he said.

    It was announced the interim prime minister would be a doctor, Jona Baravilala Senilagakali, who is not a member of the military and has no political experience.

    Four military coups in 20 years

    May 1987

    Since gaining independence from Britain in 1970, Fiji is wracked by ethnic tension between the country's Fijian and Indo-Fijian ethnic groups. The army, led by Colonel Sitiveni Rabuka, topples the Indo-Fijian government of Prime Minister Timoci Bavadra in a bloodless coup.

    September 1987

    A second coup declares Fiji a republic and gives native Fijians a much larger share of power despite the Indo-Fijian population being marginally larger. Amid international outcry, Fiji is thrown out of the Commonwealth and thousands of Indo-Fijians flee.

    May 2000

    Although Fiji is readmitted into the Commonwealth in 1997, its membership is suspended after nationalist George Speight takes PM Mahenrda Chaudry, an ethnic Indian, hostage, sparking another coup. Speight is jailed for treason and Laisenia Qarase is made Prime Minister.

    December 2006

    Mr Qarase proposes an amnesty for the plotters of the 2000 coup - a move bitterly opposed by the military. Relations reach rock bottom as the Prime Minister tries to fire Fiji's military leader Frank Bainimarama who refuses to step down and launches the fourth military coup.

    Fiji's military faces sanctions after seizing power from PM

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  • Guest 123
    Fiji PM reported to be under house arrest

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  • Guest 123
    Reports are coming in from Fiji that the president has given the military the go-ahead to take over running the country.

    Local media is reporting that Fijian President Ratu Josefa Iloilo has signed an order dissolving Parliament.

    Armed soldiers in Fiji have entered the grounds of the Prime Minister's residence in Suva and seized ministerial cars. Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase was inside meeting several cabinet ministers.

    Meanwhile, New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark has condemned Fiji's President for telling the country's military commander that he can remove the government.

    Miss Clark says Fiji's constitution only allows the President to remove the Prime Minister if he has lost the confidence of Parliament.

    She says that is clearly not the case.

    Miss Clark is urging both the president and the head of the military, Commander Frank Bainimarama, to pull back from “the brink” immediately.

    She says if they don't they will cause irreparable damage to Fiji's economy and people.

    Fiji’s president dissolves parliament: Report

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  • Guest 123
    Prime Minister John Howard says he has turned down a request for military intervention from Fiji's Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase.

    Mr Howard has confirmed a coup is under way in the Pacific nation, with the President joining military leader Frank Bainimarama in a move against the Government.

    Mr Howard has condemned the action as a tragic setback for democracy in Fiji.

    Australia will cut defence ties with Fiji if the Government is removed from power, but Mr Howard says that will not mean sending troops.

    "We discussed this at some length at the national security committee of Cabinet a short while ago," he said.

    "We took the view then and have remained steadfast in the view that it is not appropriate for military intervention.

    "In reality, if military action were taken now we'd be, in effect, invading the country and we have absolutely no intention of doing that."

    Foreign Minister Alexander Downer says if the Mr Qarase is removed from office, Australia will suspend defence cooperation and ban Fijians involved in the coup from entering Australia.

    Commodore Bainimarama has repeatedly threatened to topple Mr Qarase's Government, which won a second five-year term in May, claiming it is corrupt.

    Mr Qarase was left isolated in his Suva residence on Tuesday when troops surrounded his home.

    Heavily armed troops set up roadblocks throughout Suva on Monday, including around Mr Qarase's office and other towns like Nadi, the tourism hub in the west of the main island of Viti Levu.

    The military appeared on the verge of taking control in what would be the nation's fourth coup in two decades as it tightened its stranglehold on the Government and the country.

    "Up to now the Government is working under my leadership, but for how long we don't know," Mr Qarase said.

    Mr Qarase said Fiji's President had granted Commodore Bainimarama "the go-ahead" to take power, but vowed he would not resign.

    He said the President's office had given him two options - agree to a list of nine demands issued by Commodore Bainimarama, or resign.

    "I cannot do either of those," Mr Qarase said.

    He said that while he had no means to resist a military coup, he would not step down, and accused Commodore Bainimarama of wanting to become a military dictator.

    "We are totally unarmed. We can't give in to the commander's demands and I am not prepared to resign voluntarily or even by force," he said.

    "I am still prime minister and I'm not resigning."

    Howard refuses Fijian request for military intervention

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  • Guest 123
    FIJI'S army began surrounding government offices this morning as sources in the military told The Australian that Commodore Bainimarama would be forced to act one way or another and install and interim government by tonight.

    The military arrived at the home of Fiji's Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase this morning and tried to cut through the locked gates to gain entry, raising the prospect of an immediate coup declaration.

    Surrounded by dozens of media and police the army tried to gain access to Mr Qarase's house but failed. They then took the keys to Mr Qarase's official cars and departed, before returning later in the morning and taking the prime minister's two four-wheel drive vehicles with them.

    More troops were also being sent to take up position around the prime ministerial residence.

    A short time earlier, Mr Qarase told ABC radio: "I think it's inevitable that they'll move in."

    "They will certainly take me away to an island location close by," the prime minister said.

    The military commander has been waiting for a declaration by President Josefa Iloilo of a state of emergency or no confidence in the government to allow him to create an interim government, but that declaration has not been forthcoming.

    The military may be forced to act because their accounts have been frozen by the Department of Finance, The Australian has learned.

    Armed Fiji soldiers moved into downtown Suva today and the military began seizing government ministers' vehicles, continuing what appears to be the first stages of a coup.

    Soldiers are manning checkpoints and guarding roads around government offices and other key facilities in the Fijian capital.

    At 6.30am about 20 soldiers in full battle armour were positioned near roads bordering the old parliament complex, which houses offices of the prime minister and cabinet ministers.

    Military checkpoints have been set up nearby on other roads leading to the complex.

    Fiji commercial radio reported that soldiers earlier today removed two government vehicles used by ministers from the car park in the compound.

    Mr Qarase has been at home all morning, with his Cabinet ministers coming and going. A Cabinet meeting on the crisis was called. It is expected the Prime Minister will visit the President at some time later today.

    Government figures have been told to pack their bags and await the arrival of military police.

    Fiji Public Service Commission chairman Stuart Huggett told The Australian that his chief executive Anare Jale had been called by the military and warned he would be detained.

    "They called him and said: 'Pack your bags you're going to be arrested'," Mr Huggett said.

    Mr Huggett, a British-born Fijian citizen who runs a successful architecture firm said a soldier came to his house last night to confirm it was his residence.

    A soldier was last week spotted videoing the home of an Australian diplomat, security at the homes of High Commission staff has been increased with guards put in place and most staff moving into empty accommodation near the High Commission itself.

    Many of the staff's family have gone, along with non-essential staff, however the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade intends to keep the High Commission operating throughout any crisis as best it can.

    Soldiers fanned out all over Suva and in the western city of Nadi from late yesterday, setting up checkpoints on roads leading to the centre of Suva and near vital assets.

    The military says the checkpoints are to ensure the public's safety because of a potential threat from dissident groups.

    There have been no reports from other sources of any resistance to the military.

    Mr Qarase said he would meet President Ratu Josefa Iloilo this morning after soldiers turned away his vehicle from Government House late yesterday.

    Fiji coup 'inevitable' as troops surround PM

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  • Guest 123
    Armed Fiji soldiers moved into downtown Suva this morning and the military began seizing government ministers' vehicles, continuing what appears to be the first stages of a coup.

    Soldiers are manning checkpoints and guarding roads around government offices and other key facilities in the Fijian capital.

    At 6.30am about 20 soldiers in battle kit were positioned near roads bordering the old parliament complex, which houses offices of the Prime Minister and cabinet ministers.

    Military checkpoints have been set up nearby on other roads leading to the complex.

    Fiji commercial radio reported that soldiers earlier today removed two government vehicles used by ministers from the car park in the compound.

    Land forces commander Lieutenant-Colonel Pita Driti was quoted as telling the broadcaster all minister's vehicles would be seized, including that of Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase.

    Soldiers fanned out all over Suva and in the western city of Nadi from late yesterday, setting up checkpoints on roads leading to the centre of Suva and near vital assets.

    The military says the checkpoints are to ensure the public's safety because of a potential threat from dissident groups.

    There have been no reports from other sources of any resistance to the military.

    Qarase said he would meet President Ratu Josefa Iloilo this morning after soldiers turned away his vehicle from Government House late yesterday.

    The Prime Minister said the soldiers had wanted him to walk from the entrance gate along an uphill driveway about 400 metres long

    "I refused to do that, so I came back,'' Mr Qarase told the radio station.

    The Prime Minister yesterday flew back to Suva by helicopter from a function outside the capital after a military checkpoint was set up on the road back.

    Police bodyguards who drove Mr Qarase's vehicle handed over their weapons to soldiers at the checkpoint.

    Military commander Commodore Frank Bainimarama later said the bodyguards' weapons had been returned.

    Driti said Mr Qarase's flight home was unnecessary.

    "The PM does not deserve a bullet, let alone be apprehended,'' he told the Fiji Sun newspaper.

    "We only wanted to disarm his bodyguards as part of the clean-up campaign.''

    The campaign is Commodore Bainimarama's term for forcing the government to meet a list of military's demands.

    The Prime Minister has called an emergency cabinet meeting today to discuss Commodore Bainimarama's demands, which Mr Qarase says have changed.

    But the commander has said the Prime Minister's time is up and is demanding his resignation.

    Yesterday Commodore Bainimarama, after receiving a communication from Iloilo, cut short a press conference in which he had been expected to announce his intentions.

    Commodore Bainimarama instead briefly defended the army's seizure of police weapons yesterday and refused to take questions.

    One of Fiji's three daily newspapers was not published today after management evacuated its building yesterday on reports of a military threat against the company.

    The Daily Post is partly owned by the government and has taken a strong anti-military line in its editorials.

    Fiji troops ring PM's office

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