Fiji's defiant military ruler warned there will be no return to democracy in the volatile nation until after electoral reforms are implemented, regardless of outside pressure.
Commodore Frank Bainimarama, who seized power in a 2006 coup, told a meeting to launch nationwide discussions on a so-called "People's Charter" that the timing of elections is a matter for Fiji to determine.
"I want an early election, but this must follow the necessary reform of our electoral system," he said on Monday only days after Fiji was threatened with suspension from the Pacific Islands Forum group of nations for breaking a pledge to hold elections by March 2009.
"I have said publicly in the past that if there is no People's Charter, there would be no elections," he warned. "I wish to reiterate this to you all tonight."
It is "not ... For those outside of our country to dictate, or to preach upon us," he told the gathering.
Bainimarama has accused the government that he ousted of implementing racist policies to the detriment of Fiji's minority ethnic Indian community.
Under Fiji's 1997 Constitution, indigenous Fijians, ethnic Indians and other races vote in separate race-based constituencies - a system Bainimarama has said must change before Fiji can hold a free and fair election.
Leaders of the Pacific Island Forum, however, have been unimpressed by Bainimarama's reasons for delaying a return to democracy.
Fifteen South Pacific nations agreed unanimously last on Thursday to consider suspending Fiji from forum membership by the end of the year unless its military government can show progress toward holding democratic elections.