AUSTRALIA SUPPORTS FIJI'S RETURN TO THE COMMONWEALTH

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CANBERRA, Australia (July 23, 1997)---Australia says it will support Fiji's re-entry into the Commonwealth.

Speaking during an official visit to the Indian capital of New Delhi, Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said he believed it was only a matter of time before Fiji rejoined the Commonwealth.

Downer noted that the constitutional reforms recently passed by both houses of Fiji's Parliament and due to be ratified by the President, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, on Friday, made it appropriate for Fiji to be re-admitted.

The next meeting of the Commonwealth Heads of Government is scheduled to be held in Edinburgh, Scotland, later this year.

Fiji's re-entry into the Commonwealth has been strongly opposed by India in the past. But observers believe that India --with the approval of constitutional reforms-- now will drop its objection. The new Fiji constitution again permits non-indigenous Fijians, including Indians, to hold government positions of cabinet rank.

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