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Military overthrows Fiji Govt

The military topples the govt and sacks Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase following months-long standoff between the two.

india Updated: Dec 05, 2006 16:46 IST

Fiji's military has toppled the government and dismissed elected Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase, commander Voreqe Bainimarama announced on Tuesday following months-long standoff between the two men.

"As of six o'clock this evening, the military has taken over the government, has executive authority and the running of this country," he told a press conference.

He said he was suspending certain provisions of the constitution, taking on the role of the president and appointing an interim premier and government.

"Having stepped into the shoes of the president, I shall now therefore dismiss the Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase," he added.

Bainimarama named a doctor with no military background, Jona Baravilala Senilagakali, as caretaker prime minister and said that parliament would be dissolved.

He said an interim government would be appointed later pending elections, and appealed for Fijians to remain calm and for businesses to continue to operate.

The military commander, who had been warned by regional powers Australia and New Zealand as well as the United Nations of repercussions if he went ahead with a coup, vowed the takeover would not be permanent.

Bainimarama had repeatedly challenged Qarase to resign or face a coup, and said he took the action after the premier failed to show up at a meeting with the country's president on Tuesday.

President Ratu Josefa Iloilo had earlier Tuesday asked Qarase to resign or agree to Bainimamara's demands. The prime minister's refusal had left Fiji in "limbo," the army chief said.

"This stalemate has forced me to step forward and the military has taken over power," he said.

Despite his action, Bainimarama said the constitution would largely remain in place, and the judiciary and other arms of government would continue to operate.

He said he hoped his new government would "lead us into peace and prosperity and mend the ever-widening racial divide that currently besets our multi-cultural nation.

"We ask the people to cooperate and bear with the inconvenience." New Zealand and Australia have strongly condemned the military action and warned of sanctions, while the United Nations has said Fijian troops could be pulled from overseas peacekeeping missions.