24 Dec 2008

Forum leaders to maintain push for early Fiji elections as relations hit a new low

4:51 pm on 24 December 2008

The chair of the Pacific Islands Forum says the regional agency is still pushing for Fiji to hold elections in March next year.

This comes as the rift between Fiji and New Zealand and Australia widens with diplomats and other officials told to leave Suva.

The Forum chair, Niue's Premier Toke Talagi, says he was very disappointed by the interim regime's move because it was well aware of the sanctions that have now been in place for more than two years.

The Forum leaders are to meet in Port Moresby late next month to discuss the Fiji crisis and one possibility is it could be suspended from the body if elections are not held by March as per a commitment made last year by interim Prime Minister Commodore Frank Bainimarama.

The interim Government has since said, on a number of occasions, it will not hold elections at any time next year and it intends changing the electoral system ahead of any poll.

But Mr Talagi remains hopeful the leaders can change the Commodore's mind.

"As it stands at the present moment we are still sticking to that promise of the interim Prime Minister's and we believe that he must consider the consequences of that promise of his if those elections don't take place, as I said, as he has promised."