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U.S. claims ‘key critical interests in Fiji’

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, Sept. 29, 2010) - The United States says it will only ease sanctions on Fiji if there is progress in returning the country to democracy.

In a testimony before the Asia Pacific subcommittee of the House Foreign Relations Committee, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia, Kurt Campbell, said the U.S. is ready for dialogue with the military regime in Suva.

But he tied this to Fiji holding free and fair elections no later than 2014.

The chair of the subcommittee, Congressman Faleomavaega Eni Hunkin of American Samoa, is critical of Australia and New Zealand's policy of isolating Fiji, which he says are counterproductive.

Assistant Secretary Campbell says the U.S. is taking the issue of Fiji seriously.

"It is the centre, sort of architecturally, of transportation and the like in the Pacific," he said. "It is high on the American priority to figure out if there's a way that we can be helpful in engaging diplomatically. We are stepping up our coordination and dialogue with New Zealand and Australia who we also believe have key critical interests in Fiji."

[PIR editor’s note: Since the coup in 2006, Fiji has been controlled by Frank Bainimarama’s regime. Fiji is currently suspended from the Pacific Islands Forum and has been hit with sanctions by Australia, New Zealand, the U.S. and the European Union. So far Bainimarama has ignored international demands for democratic elections. See previous story.]

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