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SUVA, Fiji Islands (October 31, 2000 - Fiji's Daily Post/PINA Nius Online)---Pacific Islands Forum leaders have welcomed the efforts and commitment of Fiji's interim administration to return the country to democracy, a government statement said yesterday.

It said island leaders succeeded in blocking efforts by New Zealand and Australia to issue a declaration that would give them a regional framework to justify and legitimatize their smart sanctions against Fiji and strengthen Commonwealth group actions against Fiji.

The statement said Interim Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase yesterday briefed the Forum leaders on his efforts to secure law and order, return Fiji to democratic rule by 2002 and rehabilitate Fiji's economy.

It said Mr. Qarase had the support of the other island leaders, notably the Melanesian Spearhead Group and members from Micronesia. The Biketawa Declaration issued by the Forum leaders reflected the position advocated by Fiji and the overwhelming majority of other Forum island countries.

The declaration sets out guidelines for Forum action in crisis situations in member countries when standards of good governance and democracy have been breached, the statement said. However, the declaration makes it clear that these guidelines will only apply in future crises and not the situation in Fiji.

The declaration, on Mr. Qarase's insistence according to the statement, recognizes the principal of non-interference in the domestic affairs of another member state. It also recognizes the importance of respecting and protecting indigenous and cultural rights, traditions and customs.

The declaration would adopt a constructive approach to difficult and sensitive issues including the underlying causes of tensions and conflicts such as ethnic tensions, socio economic disparities, and lack of good governance, land disputes and the erosion of cultural values.

Australia and New Zealand had wanted the declaration to allow for sanctions against a member state breaching standards of democracy and good governance.

This was not accepted. Instead, the Forum leaders agreed to consider targeted measures and only as a last resort if the crisis persists, and only after a special meeting of Forum leaders have convened, and they collectively agreed to such measures.

For additional reports from Fiji’s Daily Post, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Other News Resources/Fijilive.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: 

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