Thursday, November 30, 2006

2006 Coup Talks - Remember!

Fiji crisis talks positive - Peters

29 November 2006


Foreign Minister Winston Peters said he was optimistic crisis talks between the Fijian Prime Minister and the country's maverick army commander today had averted a coup.

Peters told reporters this afternoon that the talks between Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase and commander Voreqe (Frank) Bainimarama at Government House today had been "positive".

He would not divulge what the men had agreed to but said he was positive there would be a peaceful resolution to the crisis.

The men had left in a better frame of mind than when they arrived but there was still more work to do, he said.

Peters said he was considering heading to Fiji before Christmas if he could help further.

Fijian radio stations broke into normal programming earlier this afternoon announcing Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama had left Government House and was heading home immediately.

He made no comment but Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase told Legend FM Radio shortly after that they had "had meaningful discussions".

To the question of whether the military would now move against the government with its threatened "clean up" campaign, Mr Qarase could only say he had not got that assurance and they had only discussed the demands being made by the Commodore.

"We focussed mainly on the demands," he said.

"It took us about two hours and the commander had to leave. We could have covered more ground if there had of been more time."

He was vague on whether there would be more talks, saying they would make decisions along the way.

Commodore Bainimarama is expected to leave for Fiji on tonight's Air Pacific flight at 6.05pm. With the time difference he is expected to arrive at around 9pm local.

In a similar controversy last month he returned from the Middle East and was picked up by his own military people, avoiding the usual formalities.

He will be in Suva tomorrow where the military have mobilised nearly 3000 territorials in what they say is preparation to fend off possible foreign intervention in Fiji.

At the up market Namadi Heights suburb, backing onto the Queen Elizabeth Barracks, regular automatic rifle fire could be heard through the morning.

Update @ 12.50PM

Talks in New Zealand aimed at averting a coup threat in Fiji have ended after one-and-a-half hours with no immediate indication about discussions.

A Radio New Zealand report quoted New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters as saying the meeting ended as scheduled "so Commodore Bainimarama could catch a flight back to Fiji".

Mr Qarase is also expected to return home today.

There was no comment on whether any progress was made.

None of the parties at the meeting were available for comments as they left Government House - the official residence of the New Zealand Governor-General Anand Satyanand.

Mr Peters is expected to issue a statement on the talks later today.

Attempts by the Fiji Times to get comments from the men at the centre of the talks drew a blank.

The Prime Minister did not answer calls made on his mobile phone while the Commodore's phone was switched off.

The two men reportedly discussed the Commodore's threat to remove the government if his demands for legislative changes are not met.

The talks were brokered by Mr Peters and New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark

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