Fiji interim government says it might be able to hold elections by early 2009

The Fiji Cabinet says it accepts, in principle, a report of an independent technical assessment that elections could be held within 18 months to two years.

The Cabinet further accepted, in principle, that elections could be conducted in the first quarter of 2009.

The Report was commissioned by the Pacific Islands Forum-Fiji Joint Working Group on the Situation in Fiji.

The interim Prime Minister, Commodore Bainimarama, says this commitment in principle should be welcomed by the international community who, he says, should now come forward and normalise relations with Fiji.

He says comments like those coming from the Australian Army Chief, Lieutenant-General Peter Leahy, that there is a possibility of Australian troops being sent on peacekeeping operations to Fiji do an injustice to Fiji.

The Commodore says if the economy continues on a downward spiral, how can Fiji be expected to return to parliamentary democracy sooner rather than later.

He says he is urging the authorities in neighbouring countries, such as Australia and New Zealand to be more sensitive, to understand the fundamentals and dynamics of Fiji's situation and not to make conclusions in haste.

The Fiji regime had agreed in talks with the EU in Brussels in March to aim for elections within two years.

Its interim finance minister, Mahendra Chaudhry, said afterwards that elections would have to wait until June 2010.

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