AUSTRALIA, NEW ZEALAND CRITICIZED FOR AGGRESSIVE ATTITUDE TOWARD FIJI

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(From Radio Fiji, The Fiji Times, Fiji's Daily Post, The Fiji Sun, FM96)

SUVA, Fiji Islands (July 28, 2000 - Radio Fiji, The Fiji Times, Fiji's Daily Post, The Fiji Sun, FM96/PINA Nius Online)---Fiji's interim Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase has criticized Australia and New Zealand for their aggressive and threatening "Western way" towards Fiji.

Australia and New Zealand are promoting a system of government which has seen indigenous people reduced to third-class citizens, Mr. Qarase told Radio Fiji.

Mr. Qarase indicated Fiji is now looking to develop closer ties with countries in Asia, which have a better understanding of what is happening in Fiji.

Australia and New Zealand have been at the forefront of efforts to impose sanctions and other pressures on Fiji following the overthrow of the government led by Fiji's first ethnic Indian prime minister, Mahendra Chaudhry.

Mr. Qarase's comments came on a day in which:

* The Fiji Military Forces said George Speight, who led the May 19 coup and hostage taking, could be charged with treason following threats on the life of the president, Ratu Josefa Iloilo, The Fiji Times reported. The military earlier said Speight and his indigenous Fijian supporters might not be covered by an amnesty because all the weapons they held had not been returned as agreed under the Muanikau Accord. This accord had ended the holding hostage of Chaudhry and members of his government. Speight and two of his key advisers were arrested on Wednesday night and are believed to be held at the army's Queen Elizabeth Barracks.

* The Fiji Military Forces raided the main Suva camp of Speight and his rebel supporters, and said they did this following the threats on the life of Ratu Josefa and also to try to restore law and order. The raid left one rebel supporter dead, seven seriously injured, 32 with minor injuries and 369 taken into custody, The Fiji Sun reported. One soldier is in the hospital with gunshot wounds.

* The Fiji Times said Fiji's new interim civilian administration could be named and sworn in today. An earlier ceremony was postponed amidst threats from Speight and his supporters.

* Interim Prime Minister Qarase laid down the blue print for "vigorously" pursuing indigenous Fijian and Rotuman development as a mini budget was announced, Fiji's Daily Post reported. "The purpose is not to discriminate but to correct inequities and inequalities," he said.

* Two expatriate pilots from New Zealand were taken hostage by rebel supporters after their Air Fiji flight landed at the town of Savusavu, on Fiji's second largest island, Vanua Levu, The Fiji Times reported.

* Rebel supporters in the main Vanua Levu town of Labasa denied 100 ethnic Indians they took to the Sukanaivalu barracks they control are being held hostage, The Fiji Times said.

* The Fiji Times reported member countries of the University of the South Pacific may not send their students back to Suva's Laucala campus. They might prefer to send students to Australia and New Zealand, the paper said.

* Rebel supporters tried to take the town of Korovou, north of Suva, but were driven off by reinforced Fiji Military Forces troops, FM96 reported.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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