21 Jan 2009

New Zealand and Australia disappointed by Bainimarama decision

11:40 am on 21 January 2009

New Zealand's Prime Minister, John Key, says he's disappointed, but not surprised that Fiji's interim Prime Minister will not attend next week's Pacific Islands Forum meeting.

Mr Key is due to meet leaders from the group in Papua New Guinea, to decide the fate of Fiji's membership in the Forum.

But Frank Bainimarama says in a statement that he won't attend the special meeting because he must place the interest of the nation and those affected by the floods at the forefront.

The statement says he has written to the forum's chair, Toke Talagi, to ask for a deferral.

Mr Key says he's also disappointed by the Commodore's comments that he is effectively ruling out holding democratic elections in Fiji this year.

"I think he obviously will point to the floods as the reason for not attending the Forum. But realistically this was his opportunity, I believe, to front up and give an explanation of the timetable and the roadmap towards restoring those elections and he's going to fail to take that opportunity by the looks of things, he's certainly not strengthening his hand by failing to turn up."

John Key, New Zealand's prime minister.

The Australia government has also expressed disappointed at Commodore Bainimarama's decision.

Australia's Foreign Minister, Stephen Smith, says he was also disappointed the interim Fiji prime minister requested the forum be postponed.

He says the Australian government will be discussing this request with the other forum country governments.