12 Dec 2008

Fiji could be expelled from forum

8:18 am on 12 December 2008

Fiji could be expelled from the Pacific Islands Forum after coup leader Frank Bainimarama ruled out holding promised elections by March next year.

A delegation of foreign ministers, from Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga and Tuvalu, met Commodore Bainimarama on Thursday to discuss progress toward returning Fiji to democracy.

He affirmed his country will not be ready to hold elections by March - a decision that prompted Australian Foreign Minister, Stephen Smith, to raise the possibility of Fiji's expulsion from the forum.

In a statement, the foreign ministers said Pacific Islands Forum leaders would hold a special meeting on Fiji in Papua New Guinea next month.

Commodore Bainimarama came to power in a military coup in Fiji in December 2006 later appointed himself prime minister.

He made a commitment to the forum's 2007 meeting in Tonga to hold elections in the first quarter of 2009.

The United States and European Union have imposed sanctions until new elections are held.

There have been four coups and a mutiny by the army in Fiji since 1987.