FIJI PRIME MINISTER: TRAVEL WARNINGS ‘OVERREACTION’

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Nov. 30) – Fiji Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase has criticized travel warnings issued by Australia urging its citizens to stay away from Fiji in light of the standoff between the Government and the military.

Speaking in Suva after returning from talks in Wellington with army commander Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama, Mr Qarase told ABC Online that the Australians tended to overreact most of the time.

"It's absolutely fantastic at the moment," he said. "The tensions are in Suva, the capital. If the travel advice warns people about travels to the capital, I can well understand that, but to cover the whole of Fiji is a little bit of an overreaction."

He said western Fiji, where most tourist resorts were, was always peaceful.

Mr. Qarase's comments were an apparent attempt to shore up the country's tourism industry, which has suffered a 40 per cent drop in bed bookings after the crisis intensified last week.

Earlier, Mr. Qarase told business news website Bloomberg.com that the threat of a coup had faded since his talks with Commodore Bainimarama.

There was no immediate, obvious resolution from the talks between the two in the New Zealand capital Wellington yesterday, aimed at averting a threatened military takeover in Fiji.

Asked about the prospect of military action, he told ABC Radio: "It has decreased following the talks that the military commander and I had in Wellington yesterday".

"Things are normal, as far as I know."

Mr. Qarase said he was looking forward to further, follow-up, talks with Commodore Bainimarama.

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