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Rivals discuss upcoming election and the People’s Charter

By Frederica Elbourne & Amelia Vunileba

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, June 18, 2008) – Ousted Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase and the man who removed him from office, interim Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama, met for the second time yesterday on the eve of talks with the European Council.

In an unsigned statement, the two leaders who met in Parliament for more than an hour said discussions were centred on the People's Charter and the proposed political forum which will be facilitated by the Commonwealth Secretariat and the United Nations.

The statement came as the EU team, led by Doctor Tjasa Zivko, arrived in the country yesterday on a fact-finding mission on the progress of preparations for Fiji's national elections which the interim Government is committed to have by March next year.

Mr Qarase could not be reached last night but was spotted in Parliament with Methodist Church president Reverend Laisiasa Ratabacaca. Mr Ratabacaca refused to comment when contacted.

The meeting also included the head of the Roman Catholic Church in Fiji, Archbishop Petero Mataca.

"The four leaders reiterated the great importance of constructive forward-looking dialogue, including the efforts that are now needed aimed at healing and reconciliation at the national level," the statement said.

"They urged Fiji's traditional, community, civic and religious leaders to play an active and a lead role in the reconciliation efforts at the level of local communities and at national level."

Leaders in Fiji need to set examples in the way they lead, to exercise effectively the responsibility that positions of leadership entrusted in them, the statement said.

A further meeting between the two leaders is anticipated, it said.

Meanwhile, the EU delegation comprises four members of the European Council.

They will meet government officials, civil societies and non-governmental organisations, said Foreign Affairs permanent secretary Ross Ligairi.

Dr Zivko is representing the Slovenian presidency, while Roger Moore - the director general development at the European Union Commission - and Marco Solaini represent the European Council.

Ambassador at Large and representative of the French presidency Patrick Rousell completes the makeup of the delegation.

A Foreign Affairs official said three other members of the EU resident mission are expected to join the delegation when they meet Commodore Bainimarama this morning.

Other meetings include one with interim Foreign Affairs Minister Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, interim Finance Minister Mahendra Chaudhry and interim Defence Minister Ratu Epeli Ganilau.

The delegation will hold separate meetings with the Constituency Boundaries Commission and the Fiji Women's Crisis Centre before meeting representatives of the National Council of Building a Better Fiji.

Tomorrow the delegation meets interim Attorney General Aiyaz Saiyed Khaiyum, the Electoral Commission and the Supervisor of Elections Felicity Heffernan, Pacific Islands Secretariat representatives and the Joint Forum Islands Working Group.

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