Commonwealth threatens tougher action against Fiji

LONDON,  (Reuters) – The Commonwealth said yesterday it would take tougher action against Fiji in September  unless it had moved to hold elections by then.

A group of Commonwealth ministers met in London to consider  the situation in Fiji, where military leader Frank Bainimarama  appointed himself prime minister after staging a coup in 2006.

Bainimarama has recently gone back on a promise to hold  elections in the first quarter of 2009. He says Fiji must first  change its racially based electoral system, which he blames for  past instability in the coup-plagued nation.

In a statement, the Commonwealth ministers said they  deplored the fact that Fiji contravened the principles of the  Commonwealth, a grouping of 53 countries, mainly former British  colonies.

Fiji had not stuck to its March 2009 deadline for holding  elections and had not indicated an alternative date, it said.

Fiji is already suspended from Commonwealth meetings but the  Commonwealth said it could go further if Fiji failed to make  enough progress.

If a country is fully suspended, it loses access to  Commonwealth advice and technical assistance. Commonwealth  member states are encouraged to take further steps such as  limiting government-to-government contacts.

In January, South Pacific island leaders gave Fiji until May  1 to set a date for elections in 2009 or face possible  suspension from the 15-nation Pacific Islands Forum.

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