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Commonwealth suspends Fiji

world Updated: Sep 01, 2009 20:39 IST

IANS
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Fiji was on Tuesday suspended from the Commonwealth after its military rulers failed to commit themselves to staging elections this year.

Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma said the Pacific island-state stands "fully suspended from membership of the Commonwealth with immediate effect".

"This is an announcement I make with deep regret - it is a step the Commonwealth is now obliged to take, and one that it takes in sorrow," said Sharma.

The move - the last in a series of steps to discipline errant states - follows Fiji's temporary suspension after the overthrow of its civilian government in a military coup December 2006.

Sharma said the Commonwealth had made "sustained efforts" to engage with Fiji's interim government to persuade it to return to constitutional democracy and tackle the "underlying issues that led to this and past coups."

But Fiji's military rulers failed to give a firm commitment that they would hold credible elections by October 2010, as demanded by the Commonwealth.

Sharma said a letter from Commodore Bainimarama on August 21 did not meet the terms that had been set out.

However, Sharma kept a door open, saying the Commonwealth will continue to engage with the government to restore constitutional democracy.