Monday, February 22, 2010

McCully, Fiji Head to Rugby Summit

by Michael Field - 22 February 2010

Foreign Minister Murray McCully will meet Fiji's military strongman Voreqe Bainimarama next month at the Hong Kong Sevens, the Fiji Sun reports.

The newspaper, which is regarded as close to the regime, says Bainimarama and McCully will discuss New Zealand's sanctions against Fiji.

Since the 2006 coup which ended Fiji democracy, New Zealand has banned Fiji military and government officials and their families, from entry.

Bainimarama told the Fiji Sun he was "delighted" at the turn of events.

A spokesman for Mr McCully said the proposal was less specific and came after a Saturday meeting in Nadi with his Fiji counterpart Inoke Kubuabola.

When Mr Kubuabola learnt Mr McCully would be in Hong Kong around the time of the Sevens, he suggested an informal meeting with Bainimarama.

Mr McCully's spokesman said it remains a possibility, depending on the itineraries of both men and says nothing firm has been arranged at this point.

Kubuabola and McCully said they remained committed to maintaining dialogue and ensuring both countries have effective diplomatic representation.

"This meeting continued our efforts to strengthen staffing at our missions in Wellington and Suva," a joint statement said.

New Zealand will send Phillip Taula to Suva next month to take up the position of First Secretary and Acting Head of Mission at the New Zealand High Commission in Suva.

Mere Tora is in Wellington to take up her position as First Secretary and Acting Head of Mission at the Fiji High Commission in Wellington.

Meanwhile, in New York, a United Nation's official has revealed a refusal to accept a prominent Fiji colonel as head of a peacekeeping mission.

Bainimarama had posted his Land Force Commander, Colonel Pita Driti, to head Fiji's contribution to the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI).

But Farhan Haq, spokesman for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, told a weekend briefing that they had rejected Driti.

"In light of allegations of serious human rights violations against Colonel Driti, the United Nations advised the appropriate Fijian authorities that the organisation would not accept any personnel alleged to have committed human rights abuses or other illegal activities and that Colonel Driti would therefore not be accepted as the head of the UNAMI Fijian contingent," Haq said.

He said there has been no increase in the number of Fijian troops participating in existing operations or any participation of Fijian troops in new UN operations established since Bainimarama's 2006 coup.

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