28 Nov 2006

Fiji leader hopeful meeting with military commander will allay coup fears

8:26 pm on 28 November 2006

Fiji's Prime Minister Laisena Qarase is to meet the military commander in New Zealand on Wednesday amid claims by Australia that a coup may be imminent.

The military commander, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, has been on a private visit in New Zealand, and has agreed to remain in the country for the talks.

Mr Qarase says he is ready to meet directly with the Commodore and to do so with an open mind but has ruled out that he will resign.

The planned meeting in Welllington follows negotiations in New Zealand, with the Foreign minister Winston Peters holding several meetings with Commodore Bainimarama.

The New Zealand prime minister, Helen Clark, says her government seized the opportunity.

"In discussion with Mr Peters I said someone at least had to try to mediate. I wasn't necessarily thinking of New Zealand. I was thinking perhaps of providing an opening for the Commonwealth Secretariat or even the UN to come in, but events have moved very very fast to the extent that the two men will meet here and New Zealand will be in a position to at least see how far we can take the meeting."

New Zealand prime minister, Helen Clark

Mr Qarase say he hopes the meeting will allay fears of a coup.

Well I'm hoping that the outcome will firstly defuse the situation and calm people because there is a lot of anxiety here, a bit of fear. so this development today is very positive and sending out a very good signal.

Meanwhile, the Australian Defence Force has reportedly cancelled all leave for special forces troops as it sets plans in motion for the evacuation of 700 Australian nationals in the event of a coup.