27 Mar 2008

Pacific Islands Forum and other international governments offer more assistance to Fiji

10:56 am on 27 March 2008

Pacific Islands Forum and other international governments have offered more assistance to Fiji on its plans for free and fair elections.

A lack of progress on the Fiji election timetable prompted foreign ministers at the Pacific Forum in Auckland yesterday to form a ministerial contact group.

The group, consisting of the foreign ministers of Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga and Tuvalu, will work more closely with Fiji over plans for an election next March.

Meanwhile, the Fiji government remains unhappy with the travel sanctions put in place by New Zealand and Australia and wants those lifted as soon as possible.

It said the travel ban was one of the reasons why they can't appoint a supervisor of elections.

But New Zealand foreign minister Winston Peters dismisses this.

"It was pointed out by both myself and the Australian Foreign Minister categorically that for both of our countries, we've made it very, very clear that such a ban would not be imposed against such a person. They all knew that and so this was really a fallacious objection."

The United States government also expressed willingness to help the interim government meet its election timetable commitment.

The US ambassador to Fiji, Larry Dinger, said his government would be prepared to put some effort into ensuring the election occurs.

Meanwhile, Fiji's Foreign Minister Ratu Epeli Nailatikau told the meeting the interim cabinet will be presented with a timetable early next month which if approved will be submitted to the forum.