22 Aug 2008

Pacific leaders losing patience with Fiji govt - Rudd

8:04 am on 22 August 2008

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says Pacific leaders are losing patience with Fiji's interim government.

Fiji faces the prospect of being the only member to be suspended from the Pacific Islands Forum if it does not move towards staging elections next year.

Pacific leaders meeting in Niue have condemned the administration for its refusal to commit to the deadline and expressed concerns about its absence from the summit.

The forum represents 15 island nations, including Australia and New Zealand.

Mr Rudd says they are united in their condemnation of Frank Bainimarama's regime.

He says Australia will mobilise any resources necessary to restore democracy to Fiji.

Forum chair, Nuie's premier, Toke Talagi, says Australia and New Zealand did not pressure smaller countries over Fiji's possible suspension.

Economy will suffer

New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark believes Fiji's economy will suffer if it is suspended from the Pacific Islands Forum.

She told Morning Report any suspension from the Forum would have United Nations backing.

She says it would leave Fiji in a very difficult position with a major donor such as the European Union.

Miss Clark says it needs the EU in order to restructure its sugar industry and try and help its ailing economy.

However, Fiji's Labour Party leader Mahendra Chaudhry, who resigned last week as the interim Finance Minister, says the forum is of little relevance to the development of island nations because of the dominance of Australia and New Zealand.

2006 coup

Commodore Bainimarama seized power in December 2006. It was the fourth coup there since 1987.

He gave a commitment at last year's Pacific Islands Forum in Tonga to hold elections by March 2009, but now says Fiji is being pressured to return to democratic rule too quickly.