22 Aug 2008

Forum suspension will hurt Fiji economy - Clark

4:00 pm on 22 August 2008

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

Fiji accuses New Zealand and Australia of using bullying tactics as pressure on the country to hold democratic elections increases.

On Thursday, the Pacific Forum meeting in Niue voted unanimously to consider suspending Fiji if it does not hold elections by March 2009.

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

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

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

The forum represents 15 island nations, including Australia and New Zealand. Fiji would be the only member to be suspended from the Forum.

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

Mr Rudd says they are united in their condemnation of the regime of Commodore Frank Bainimarama.

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

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.

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.