Fiji coup on agenda as Pacific leaders open summit
Leaders from 16 Pacific countries started two days of talks in the Tongan capital Nuku'alofa on Tuesday with the restoration of democracy in Fiji after last year's coup topping the agenda.world Updated: Oct 16, 2007 08:22 IST
Leaders from 16 Pacific countries started two days of talks in the Tongan capital Nuku'alofa on Tuesday with the restoration of democracy in Fiji after last year's coup topping the agenda.
Coup leader Voreqe Bainimarama is attending the Pacific Islands Forum summit, along with one of his staunchest critics, New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark.
Australian Prime Minister John Howard stayed home after calling an election for next month, with Foreign Minister Alexander Downer taking his place.
The leaders earlier attended a colourful welcoming ceremony in a park next to King Siaosi Tupou V's palace, including a traditional Tongan cultural performance. They were offered symbolic gifts including three slaughtered pigs and the roots of the mildly narcotic kava plant.
Clark told journalists said she believed the summit would urge Bainimarama to call elections as quickly as possible. He has agreed "in principle" to hold elections by the end of the first quarter of 2009.
"What I sense is the leaders want a clear commitment to the holding of elections that's been given," she said.
"That's what everyone is saying."
The leaders will travel to the northern Tongan island of Vava'u on Wednesday for a retreat at which most of the serious talking is expected to be done.