FIJI REGIME TO DISCLOSE ELECTION PLANS NEXT MONTH

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Tells Pacific Forum ministers in Auckland

SUVA, Fiji (Fijilive, March 26, 2008) - Fiji’s interim Government will give a detailed timetable for its elections preparations after Cabinet meets in mid-April. This was the undertaking the Fiji delegation gave at the Pacific Forum Ministers meeting in Auckland today.

According to a statement by the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, the ministers emphasized the importance of such a timetable to faithfully reflect the commitments already made to Forum Leaders and the Working Group.

The ministers urged that the timetable "be provided and implemented without any further delay." The ministers expressed concern about slow progress made by the Fijian interim Government to date, and encouraged the Government to intensify its efforts to achieve the election milestones. A ministerial group has been formed to work closer with Fiji’s interim government over its election plans. Fiji’s commitment was met with mixed reaction at the forum.

While New Zealand is optimistic that Fiji will hold elections, Australian foreign minister Stephen Smith expressed skepticism about Fiji’s preparedness and was concerned that the People’s Council may be a distraction to delay the election.

The forum ministers reminded Fiji of the importance of it honoring the undertakings made to Forum Leaders last October that a parliamentary election would be held in the first quarter of 2009, that this election would be held in accordance with Fiji’s Constitution, and that the outcome of the election would be accepted by the Government and the Republic of Fiji Military Forces.

While addressing the forum today, Fiji interim Foreign Minister Ratu Epeli Nailatikau re-emphasized Fiji’s commitment to holding elections in March but did not give a specific timetable.

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