17 Oct 2007

Fiji commitment to elections a good outcome, says NZ Prime Minister

6:42 pm on 17 October 2007

The Fiji interim prime minister, Commodore Frank Bainimarama has committed that Fiji will have elections by March 2009.

Speaking to Pacific Forum Islands leaders in Tonga, the coup leader said that the Fiji military will abide by the decision made by the voters.

This comes only weeks after the Fiji military regime said it would ensure that the deposed prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, and his SDL party did not return to power

The new Forum chair, Tonga's Dr Feleti Sevele, says a seven-point consensus has been reached at the Forum to ensure the Fiji regime keeps its word.

New Zealand's Prime Minister Helen Clark says the commitment is a very good outcome for the Forum.

She says the leaders would not have settled for anything less than an absolute acceptance of the timetable for no later than the first quarter of 2009.

"It's also very important to leaders that we got a commitment given to us in the meeting that the outcome of the election will be respected. And thirdly it was important that there be a credible roadmap now developed by the Fiji interim government in conjunction with the Forum Joint Working Group on that credible road map through to the election."

New Zealand and Australia have committed more funds to help fisheries in the Pacific as regional leaders are in Tonga.

New Zealand is to provide nearly four million US dollars to a five year programme to track tuna in the Pacific.

The Australian foreign minister Alexander Downer says his government will provide funding to help strengthen the Pacific tuna fishery to ensure it does not collapse.