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Last Updated: Thursday, 30 November 2006, 06:45 GMT
Fiji PM 'makes major concessions'
Fijian Commander Frank Bainimarama
Mr Bainimarama appears to have been granted his concessions
Fiji's prime minister is to suspend work on controversial legislation fiercely opposed by a military chief who has threatened to launch a coup.

PM Laisenia Qarase said his decision reflected the outcome of talks held in New Zealand with Frank Bainimarana.

Mr Bainimarana's military carried out night-time exercises in the capital, Suva, on Wednesday, but Mr Qarase said fears of an imminent coup had eased.

Fiji has been tense for weeks amid a stand-off between the two men.

Military leaders have accused the government of corruption and lying and have threatened to overthrow Mr Qarase.

Mr Bainimarana issued a series of "non-negotiable" demands ahead of the meeting in New Zealand.

Exercises

Mr Bainimarana has specifically objected to three pieces of legislation: one offering an amnesty to those involved in a coup six years ago, one granting coastal land ownership to indigenous Fijians, and another offering compensation to land owners.

In a televised speech, Mr Qarase said he would submit the three pieces of legislation for constitutional review.

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They would be dropped if the reviews found them to be in breach of the country's constitution, he said.

Mr Bainimarana opposed the racially-motivated coup in 2000, and was at one point forced to flee the country.

Correspondents say Mr Qarase's decision to abandon the planned legislation is being seen as a major concession by the prime minister.

He described his decisions reflected the discussions held with Mr Bainimarana in New Zealand.

Mr Qarase also pledged not to seek to prosecute Mr Bainimarana, despite police suggesting that some of his comments in recent weeks may have been seditious, the Associated Press reported.

Earlier, soldiers on exercise fired flares and secured areas of the city by setting up checkpoints.

The military advised the general public to remain cautious when travelling into the centre of Suva, but urged them not to be alarmed by the exercise.

Australia's Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said the meeting of the two men was "helpful" but described the situation in Fiji as "worrying".

Australia sent three naval ships to Fiji earlier this month as a precaution in case its citizens needed evacuating in the event of a coup.


SEE ALSO
Fiji military stokes coup fears
29 Nov 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Anxious times for frustrated Fijians
29 Nov 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Australian aircraft down off Fiji
29 Nov 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Fiji talks 'fail to end crisis'
30 Nov 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Profile: Fiji's military leader
24 Nov 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Fiji army head warns of bloodshed
02 Nov 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Timeline: Fiji
10 Mar 03 |  Country profiles

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