FIJI MILITARY CALLS FOR APOLOGY BY U.S. ENVOY

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SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Sept. 28) - The Fiji army has called on United States Ambassador Larry Dinger to apologize for commenting on an issue regarding the Fiji military without first consulting it.

"It is only right that he apologizes to both the United States Army and the Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF) for his unsubstantiated comments," said army spokesman Major Neumi Leweni. "RFMF is disappointed that the ambassador first chose to comment on the issue rather then finding out the truth from the RFMF."

He said Dinger's comments were based on a news report that was a lie.

"The United States Government has a very strong belief that the military must be subordinate to the elected civilian leadership in a democracy," Dinger had said.

The report claimed that army commander Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama said he was compelled to speak out against the Qoliqoli Bill after advice from the visiting U.S. General John Brown.

But Leweni said Brown never influenced the military's stance and comments against the Bill, adding that such inaccurate reports put strain on relations with the U.S. Army.

"The issue of the Qoliqoli Bill and the RFMF stance in regards to it was already clear way before the visit of Brown to Fiji for the Pacific Army Management Seminar (PAMS)," he said.

"The Fiji Military stance was clear to the nation and to the government and it did not need nor ask for the advise of Brown or any other military leader or delegation at the PAMS for that matter."

U.S. Embassy spokesman Nirmal Singh yesterday maintained that Dinger's comments remained unchanged that the military is subject to the authority of the elected civilian government and should not attempt to involve itself in politics.

September 29, 2006

Fiji Times Online: http://www.fijitimes.com .

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