AUSTRALIA REJECTS QARASE PLEA FOR TROOPS

SUVA, Fiji (Fijilive, Dec. 5) – Fiji's Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase asked Australia for military help to stop the army but Australia refused, Prime Minister John Howard said today.

"This morning the Prime Minister of Fiji rang me and asked for Australian military intervention in response to the coup; I indicated to him that that would not be possible," Mr Howard told reporters today, while condemning the military action. "We have previously communicated our position in that," Howard said while condemning the military action.

"I did not think it was in Australia's interest to become involved," he said.

Howard said [Australia] would suspend defence ties with Fiji and stop the military and members of any interim government visiting Australia in response.

The matter was discussed by the National Security Committee of Cabinet a few days ago.

"We thought it might come to this but we took the view then and we've remained steadfast in the view that it was not appropriate for military action," he told reporters. "The possibility of Australian and Fijian troops firing on each other in the streets of Suva was not a prospect that I for a moment thought desirable. What has happened is a tragic setback to democracy in Fiji."

Mr Howard said Mr Qarase had behaved with great courage.

"I wish I could say the same thing about the President of Fiji, who does not appear to have upheld the constitution of that country. I exhort those responsible for this coup not to do any physical harm to anybody in the properly elected government of Fiji. There will be long international memories about this if that occurs."

Fijilive.com reported exclusively this morning that the President has signed an order dissolving Parliament and given the military the go-ahead to take over running the country.

The President, is supposed to act on the advice of the Prime Minister, but seems to have gone ahead based on the principle of doctrine of necessity.

Army commander Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama is expected to announce and install an interim government by tomorrow.

[PIR editor’s note: According to Fijilive, Bainimarama today named Dr Jona Senilagakali Fiji’s caretaker Prime Minister .]

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