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SUVA, Fiji (August 20, 1997 - PACNEWS)---Commonwealth countries have been given a mid-September deadline to either accept or reject Fiji's application to rejoin the 53-nation group.

The deadline imposed by the Commonwealth Secretariat in London, falls a month before the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Edinburgh, which Fiji hopes to attend as a re-admitted member.

Secretariat sources say if no objections are received by mid-September, Fiji will be re-admitted automatically. If objections are received, however, the member nations then are expected to discuss the issue in Edinburgh --without Fiji's participation-- in an effort to reach a decision by consensus.

The Secretariat has sent Commonwealth country representatives copies of a letter signed by both Fiji Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka and Opposition Leader Jai Ram Reedy seeking Commonwealth re-admission.

Meantime, the Australian government is supporting Fiji's request. Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said in Suva Tuesday that the way now is clear for Fiji to be welcomed back as a member of the Commonwealth.

Former South Australia Premier Don Dunstan, however, is not so sure. As Chairman of the Movement for Democracy and Human Rights in Fiji, he has written the Commonwealth Secretariat saying re-admission should be delayed until the year 2000. Dunstan says while Fiji has reformed its racially biased Constitution, the changes will not have significant impact for at least another three years.

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