16 Jul 2008

Ministers meet deposed Fijian prime minister

4:50 pm on 16 July 2008

Former Fijian prime minister Laisenia Qarese, deposed in a coup in 2006, says he remains confident elections will go ahead on schedule.

Mr Qarese made the comment after meeting a group of Pacific Island politicians in Suva on Wednesday.

Foreign ministers from Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga and Tuvalu are in Fiji to press the interim government to honour promises to hold elections by March 2009.

The group met interim leader Frank Bainimarama on Tuesday.

New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters has said little about the meeting with Commodore Bainimarama except that it was worthwhile.

Mr Qarase says he does intend to stand as a candidate.

The military took power in Fiji in December 2006. It was the fourth coup there since 1987.

Commodore Bainimarama told his soldiers last month that elections promised for early next year were unlikely to take place because corruption problems remained.

New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters says that, from a logistical point of view, elections could be held within a very short time frame, but there had to be the political will.

Mr Peters says the issue of sanctions imposed by New Zealand and Australia was raised at a meeting on Tuesday with Commodore Bainimarama.

On Wednesday, he said the interim administration was pushing to have trade sanctions lifted, but that would not happen until the New Zealand Government saw a credible path to an election.

Last month, Fiji suspended talks with the Fiji Joint Working Group, citing New Zealand and Australia's "neo-colonial" attitudes as one reason.

Mr Peters had expressed concern about Fiji's withdrawal from the group, saying it was a sign that Fiji was moving away from its commitment to the election timetable.