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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 November 2006, 05:13 GMT
Fiji army head warns of bloodshed
Fijian Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase
Qarase says he has no intention of resigning
Fiji's military head Frank Bainimarama has warned that the refusal of Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase to resign might lead to bloodshed.

But he added that the armed forces had no intention of mounting a coup.

Relations between the military and the government remain fraught, after Mr Qarase tried, and failed, to replace Commodore Bainimarama two days ago.

In an attempt to break the deadlock, Mr Qarase has offered face-to-face talks with the army chief.

But at the same time Mr Qarase is refusing to give in to Mr Bainimarama's demands, and a police commissioner told AFP news agency that the outspoken military leader could even face arrest when he arrives back in Fiji later this week.

Despite the army's insistence that there will not be a coup, local Fijians are taking no chances. There are reports that people are already stockpiling food in anticipation of violence.

'No question of me resigning'

For now, at least, the dispute is unfolding in the media rather than on the streets, according to the BBC correspondent in Sydney, Nick Byrant.

Mr Bainimarama, who is currently in Egypt visiting Fijian peacekeeping troops, told Radio New Zealand that he wanted to avoid bloodshed but that it might be inevitable.

Fijian Commander Frank Bainimarama
Cdr Frank Bainimarama is at loggerheads with the government
"The last thing we want to do is have violence... But Qarase is pointing us in that direction," he said.

"The fact that he doesn't want to resign and the fact that he's called for the meeting of the Great Council of Chiefs means to the military that he's put us in a situation where there is going to be bloodshed and violence."

But the prime minister is refusing to be intimidated.

"I declare emphatically that there is absolutely no question of me resigning in response to the current situation or of my government stepping down," he said in a nationally broadcast address on Wednesday.

Regional leaders have expressed deep concern over the prospects of a coup, and rallied round the elected government.

"Mr Bainimarama should accept that his role is not to go in and replace governments," said New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark.

Mr Qarase is "the proper, constitutional, democratically elected prime minister and there can be no justification at all for a military coup," added Australian Prime Minister John Howard.

Coup legacy

The rift between the military and the government has been growing for months.

At the heart of the feud are plans by the nationalist government to offer amnesties to those involved in a racially motivated coup six years ago. The proposal is bitterly opposed by Commodore Bainimarama, who was the main target of the mutiny, and was forced to flee for his life.

He also played a key role in putting down the uprising, and has made clear that he does not feel the government has done enough to bring its perpetrators to justice.

The Fijian prime minister refusing to resign

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Country profile: Fiji
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Timeline: Fiji
10 Mar 03 |  Country profiles

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