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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 December 2006, 07:43 GMT
US suspends aid to post-coup Fiji
Fijian soldier on 14 December 2006
The military coup has been criticised at home and abroad
The US has suspended economic and military aid to Fiji following its bloodless coup earlier this month.

The sanctions cover some $2.5m (1.2m) in mainly military-related assistance, the US state department announced.

Travel bans have also been imposed on army commanders and other officials who ousted Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase and his government on 5 December.

The US move came as a powerful group of Fijian tribal chiefs began a two-day meeting to discuss the crisis.

The Great Council of Chiefs - which has the power to appoint the president and vice-president - has so far refused to recognise the new military regime.

Army chief and self-appointed interim president, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, wants the council to reappoint the president, Ratu Josefa Iloilo, so an interim civilian-led government can be sworn in.

But he refused to attend the meeting after the council invited him only as Fiji's head of the military, not as the new leader.

Ousted Prime Minister Qarase was invited to attend the meeting, but has been warned by the military to stay away from the capital Suva.

Corruption claims

The state department said in a statement it had decided to stop "all applicable US assistance" to the Fijian government following the coup.

It temporarily suspended aid in the days following the coup.

2000: Brief coup put down by army chief Bainimarama
July 2005: Bainimarama warns he will topple government if it pardons jailed coup plotters
May 2006: PM Laisenia Qarase wins re-election
31 Oct: Qarase tries - and fails - to replace Bainimarama
November: Qarase says he will change law offering clemency to coup plotters - Bainimarama warns of coup
5 Dec: Military declares coup

"This decision covers approximately $2.5m in primarily military-related assistance," the statement said.

All deliveries and sales of lethal military equipment to Fiji would be suspended, along with any new economic assistance programmes.

Visa sanctions have been imposed on senior military and coup officials, while the Fijian military is barred from US-sponsored military exercises and conferences.

"We continue our call on Commodore Bainimarama to abandon his extra-judicial activities, withdraw completely from politics, and restore Fiji's legitimate democratically elected government," the statement added.

Cmdr Bainimarama said he led the military takeover because the Qarase government was corrupt. He had long opposed a plan to grant amnesties to some of those involved in a previous coup in 2000.

He has pledged to root out corruption, and warns the military could rule for the next 50 years if the council of chiefs fail to reappoint President Iloilo.

The coup has been opposed by key Fijian institutions, such as the church and the council of chiefs, and drawn international condemnation. Fiji has been suspended from the Commonwealth.

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