FIJI LAWYER SAYS PM'S LETTER CLEARS TARAKINIKINI OF COUP ALLEGATIONS

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SUVA, Fiji Islands (April 25, 2002 – Radio Australia)---A Fiji lawyer acting for Lieutenant Colonel Filipo Tarakinikini is relying on a letter from Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase to the United Nations to force the acceptance of the soldier's resignation from the Fiji Military.

Lieutenant Colonel Tarakinikini, who moved to New York to work for the United Nations, faces allegations of involvement in Fiji's May 2000 coup.

Radio Australia correspondent Ofa Kaukimoce reports from Suva.

"Tarakinikini's lawyer has given the army commander until today to comply with provisions of the "RFMF Act," which the commander has apparently breached in handling the resignation.

"The lawyer is threatening to sue Commander Voreqe Bainimarama both in his official and private capacities.

"In a letter dated April 22 to the commander, Tarakinikini's lawyer drew attention to Prime Minister Qarase's letter to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in January last year. The Prime Minister sought Mr. Annan's intervention in securing clearance to allow Tarakinikini to take up his UN posting.

"In his letter, Mr. Qarase assured the UN that Tarakinikini's appointment to the UN peacekeeping office had the full backing of the Fiji government. Mr. Qarase's letter also stated that both the Fiji Military Forces and Fiji Police Force had cleared Tarakinikini of malicious allegations after thorough investigations. The Prime Minister also informed the UN that, if there are groups in Fiji who have petitioned Kofi Annan's office with allegations linking Tarakinikini to the may coup, those groups are motivated by their own political self interests.

"Tarakinikini's lawyer says if Fiji's Prime Minister can offer the UN an assurance of Tarakinikini's innocence, he is at a loss to understand why Commander Voreqe Bainimarama continues to strongly object to Lieutenant Colonel Filipo Tarakinikini's resignation from an institution that he has faithfully served over the years.

"Ofa Kaukimoce, Radio Australia News, Suva."

For additional reports from Radio Australia, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Radio Australia.

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