Howard backs NZ in diplomatic row with Fiji

Australian Prime Minister John Howard has called on Pacific nations to press for the removal of Fiji’s interim regime, following talks with New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark.

The two leaders met in Sydney yesterday amid an escalating diplomatic crisis sparked by the expulsion of New Zealand’s high commissioner from Suva.

Interim Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama said Thursday he was expelling the envoy, Michael Green, for interfering in Fiji’s domestic affairs.

The interim regime however remains mum on the specifics surrounding Green’s expulsion.

Describing Bainimarama’s government as “an undemocratic, arbitrary, pre-emptive regime,” Howard urged Fiji’s neighbours in the South Pacific to apply diplomatic pressure for a return to democracy.

“At every point of contact, Fiji has to be reminded that its regime is undemocratic — that friendly countries, as well as those that have a more formal relationship with Fiji, do not approve of what has happened,” he said.

He said all nations wanted “clear evidence” that Fiji was willing to return to democracy as soon as possible.

Clark said she had received “tremendous solidarity” from Australia over the issue, which she said cast doubt on Fiji’s seriousness about returning to democratic government.

- Fiji Live (June 15, 2007)

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