8 Jul 2009

Key denies Samoa unhappy with NZ over Fiji

8:48 pm on 8 July 2009

Prime Minister John Key has denied claims that Samoa Head of State expressed displeasure at the way the New Zealand Government is handling the situation in Fiji.

The New Zealand prime minister has paid a visit to Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi in Apia on the second leg of a Pacific goodwill tour.

The Samoan leader reportedly conveyed to Mr Key his deep concerns that New Zealand and Australia's approach is harming Fiji's residents.

Fiji was recently expelled from the Pacific Islands Forum because its interim government went back on a promise to hold elections by March this year. The regime wants to hold elections in 2014.

But Mr Key says for Fiji to resume as an active member of the forum, other members would need to see democracy restored within a suitable timeframe, and 2014 was a long way away.

Mr Key defended the suspension of Fiji, telling Radio New Zealand he stands by the decisions made by forum leaders.

He says he has seen no indication that Pacific leaders, including Tui Atua Tupua, want to veer away from that.

"He is concerned that everyday Fijians are being hurt by this process and obviously would love to see it resolved. And in that regard, I reiterated the position that I say everywhere - which is New Zealand wants to help Fiji on its pathway to democracy as soon as it possibly can."

Mr Key says members of the forum would prefer to see Fiji part of the regional body.

The Pacific Islands Forum will be held in Australia in August.