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Govt-military standoff continues in Fiji

The military accuses Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase of taking the country towards violence and bloodshed.

india Updated: Nov 03, 2006 13:07 IST

An uneasy standoff between the government and military chiefs who want the government to resign continued in the Pacific island state of Fiji on Friday, according to reports from the capital Suva.

Police put a cordon around parliament where the government introduced its budget for the next fiscal year while 1,000 troops and reservists held a formal parade in the city's main army barracks.

Although life has reportedly continued as normal, tension has been high all week following a failed attempt by the government to replace military chief Commodore Voreqe (Frank) Bainimarama.

Bainimarama ruled out a coup Thursday but cryptically accused Prime Minister Laisenia Qaraseof taking the country towards violence and bloodshed.

The commodore, who is visiting his troops on peacekeeping duties in the Middle East, has renewed calls for Qarase to abandon two controversial policies said to favour indigenous Fijians over the ethnic Indian minority or resign.

But his deputy, Captain Esala Teleni, repeated assurances as he reviewed the mass parade of troops that the military did not intend to overthrow the government with Fiji's fourth coup in 20 years.

He insisted, however, that it would keep pressing the government to drop the controversial legislation.

Fiji's police chief Andrew Hughes has condemned the military's move to take away 600,000 rounds of imported ammunition from the Suva docks without guaranteeing they would not be used to mount a coup.

Hughes, who said Friday that police relations with the military had deteriorated, has warned that Bainimarama could face sedition and even treason charges but discounted arresting him when he arrives back in the country next week as unnecessarily provocative.

New Zealand and Australia have warned the Fiji military against overthrowing the government and made plans to evacuate thousands of their citizens holidaying in the Pacific island republic if violence breaks out.

First Published: Nov 03, 2006 13:07 IST