NEW ZEALAND VOWS SANCTIONS AGAINST FIJI

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SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, June 19) – New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark yesterday vowed that within a week it would decide what "considerable" sanctions it would further take against Fiji.

According to [New Zealand news publication] Stuff, Ms. Clark told reporters that Cabinet yesterday talked about the response to the expulsion of its High Commissioner Michael Green, who is expected to leave the country this morning.

Reports that Mr Green was not given a June 18 deadline to leave the country could not be substantiated.

"There are some other things that can be done," she said. "What Fiji's done is a serious and significant act. Our response must be serious and significant and we are not going to be rushed into that."

She urged New Zealanders to reconsider before taking up the cheap holidays that Fiji had to offer.

"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade will co-ordinate talks with officials from departments, including defence, police, immigration and NZAID about what further action could be taken," she said. "We've asked them to do a very thorough review of the relationship and what else might be done. I must stress it is not business as usual. Fiji's provocative act makes it absolutely clear that there should not be business as usual. I think this lashing out has come because of the very severe pressure the regime has been put under."

Interim Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama has accused Mr Green of interfering in Fiji's domestic affairs a charge New Zealand rejects. Commodore Bainimarama has refused to disclose details of the alleged offence.

In his last statement on the issue, he said Mr Green had been "in our face" since the military takeover on December 5, 2006.

New Zealand condemned the coup and imposed sanctions which included suspending aid, banning sporting contacts and visits from government members and other measures.

Since then Fiji has been excluded from the Pacific seasonal employment scheme, which it had lobbied for intensely.

"We will be going back again to the UN pointing out the great irony of Fiji personnel being deployed to troubled countries in an endeavour to bring peace and security when their own is exactly such a country which is troubled and doesn't enjoy peace and security at this time," said Ms Clark.

Fiji has been excluded from the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands since the coup.

Meanwhile, the Australian Army says there is a possibility of its troops being sent on a peacekeeping mission here if the situation becomes unstable.

According to a Radio Australia report yesterday, Lieutenant-General Peter Leahy said the recent coup in Fiji had the potential to incite tensions that could leave the country vulnerable to instability.

"I think we would need to have prudent plans and just see whether we need to do that. I would rather not go to any place at all," he said. "But I think we do need to make sure we have plans and we have the capabilities to support governments in those locations should they ask for support."

Army spokesman Major Neumi Leweni said it was the first he had heard of the report.

He preferred to comment only after he had read the report.

Land Force Commander Colonel Pita Driti had said the interim Government believed Mr Green and former Australian High Commissioner to Fiji Jennifer Rawson were allegedly part of "the team" that plotted to remove the military chief during the lead-up to his December 5 coup.

Talking to New Zealand's national radio station, Colonel Driti said there was no direct evidence of either diplomat being involved.

"It doesn't have to be something you've got to have evidence for. It is just a matter of gauging what took place and reading between the lines," he told New Zealand's National Radio. Colonel Driti could not be reached for a comment yesterday.

Major Leweni said he was not aware of the issue and Colonel Driti would be the best person to explain further on the issue.

The report said the Australian government did not immediately respond to the allegation, but Ms Clark said the charges against Mr Green were without foundation.

"That's complete nonsense. A complete fiction. This is a disgraceful move and has no foundation whatsoever," Ms Clark said.

Ms Clark said New Zealand would step up its advocacy at the United Nations to stop Fiji troops being used as UN peacekeepers.

She said she had suspended talks under way with Fiji about sea boundaries.

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