29 Jan 2007

Forum EPG opens talks with Fiji leaders after December coup

4:28 pm on 29 January 2007

The Eminent Persons group sent to Fiji by the Pacific Islands Forum has begun its meetings with key stakeholders.

The group met President Ratu Josefa Iloilo for 45 minutes this morning and early this afternoon they were meeting the military commander and interim prime minister, Commodore Frank Bainimarama.

President Iloilo was reported to have had a presentation ready for the group for the last two weeks.

The eminent persons will also meet some ousted parliamentarians, the Great Council of Chiefs, members of the judiciary and the deposed prime minister, Laisenia Qarase.

The military will not allow Mr Qarase to travel to Suva and the eminent persons will fly to his home village on Vanuabalavu Island in the Lau Group for the meeting on Thursday.

The four-member EPG comprises Vanuatu's deputy prime minister, Sato Kilman; the former chief justice of Papua New Guinea, Sir Arnold Amet; Samoa's environment minister, Faumuina Liuga; and the former commander of the Australian Defence Force, General Peter Cosgrove.

Meanwhile, the United States has welcomed the visit by the group, saying it supports efforts towards a swift return to democracy in Fiji.