FIJI'S OCTOBER COMMONWEALTH RE-ENTRY LIKELY

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SUVA, Fiji (August 3, 1997 - PACNEWS)---Fiji's-re-entry into the Commonwealth now appears to be assured.

A senior government official told the Fiji Times that the Commonwealth Secretariat had informed the Fiji government that its status as a member will be restored in October at a meeting of Commonwealth heads in Edinburgh, Scotland.

This will mean the likely re-establishment of aid benefits, particularly in technical areas, that have been denied Fiji since its Commonwealth membership lapsed in late 1987, after the two military coups of that year and following the country being declared a republic.

In Parliament Friday, Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka introduced a report on the matter, prepared by British constitution lawyer John Wilson, with an attached letter supporting Commonwealth re-entry signed by both Rabuka and opposition leader and ethnic Indian Jai Ram Reddy.

The letter, address to the Commonwealth Secretariat, focuses on recent political developments in Fiji, including approval last month of the South Pacific country's new, democratic constitution. Fijians of Indian descent, once again, are permitted to hold government ministerial positions, including Prime Minister.

Reddy's participation in the proceedings gives the project a higher profile, and is expected to appease the Indian government, which has been vocal against Fiji's Commonwealth re-entry aspirations.

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