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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 December 2006, 05:30 GMT
Fiji's PM is 'under house arrest'
A Fijian soldier outside the home of the country's prime minister
Soldiers surrounded the prime minister's home in the capital
Fiji's prime minister has said he is under house arrest as army soldiers blockade his residence in the South Pacific island's capital, Suva.

The country's president denied comments by New Zealand's prime minister that he had agreed to dissolve parliament.

The reports appeared to suggest that the president was backing the military's attempt to stage a coup.

Military chief Cmdr Frank Bainimarama has repeatedly threatened to unseat Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase.

The BBC's Phil Mercer, in Suva, says that despite the confusion it now seems inevitable that Mr Qarase will be a casualty of the country's political turmoil.

Cmdr Bainimarama is expected to give a press conference in the coming hours.

No resignation

Earlier, New Zealand's Prime Minister, Helen Clark, blasted reports of the president's decision to dissolve parliament as a result of what she said was the military's "bullying, intimidation and threats".

FIJI TENSIONS TIMELINE
map
2000 Brief coup put down by army chief Bainimarama
12 July 2005 Cmdr Bainimarama warns he will topple government if it pardons jailed coup plotters
13 July 2005 PM Laisenia Qarase says he will review law pardoning plotters
17 May 2006 Mr Qarase wins re-election
31 Oct Mr Qarase tries - and fails - to replace Cmdr Bainimarama as army chief
4 November Mr Qarase says he will change law offering clemency to coup plotters
7 November Military calls for police chief to quit
30 November Mr Qarase offers "concessions" after meeting Cmdr Bainimarama
30 November Cmdr Bainimarama warns of coup if demands not met
1 December Deadline set for possible coup passes without incident

She warned of "fearful consequences for the people of Fiji unless the military and president pull back from the brink".

On Tuesday morning, Mr Qarase told the BBC's World Today programme that he expected to be taken into custody shortly.

The embattled elected leader refuses to step down voluntarily.

"I am at home but there are soldiers at the gate negotiating their way to come in," Mr Qarase said from his complex in the centre of the capital, Suva.

"If they want to carry out an illegal act, that is their choice," he said, "but I will not resign."

He said Fiji's powerful Pacific neighbours Australia and New Zealand had "flatly said no" to sending military support after the Fijian police were disarmed on Monday.

Both neighbours have said that they feared that sending in troops would only inflame a delicate situation.

Checkpoints have already been set up across the capital in what Mr Qarase described as a "strangling of the government of the day".

'Dire consequences'

Cmdr Bainimarama is angry at the way Mr Qarase has handled the aftermath of a coup in 2000, offering an amnesty to those responsible.

Mr Qarase says that at least 800 of those involved have already been convicted.

Australia, Britain and New Zealand have advised their citizens to stay away from the tourism-dependent former British colony.

They have also warned of dire social, economic and diplomatic consequences if the military completes its coup.

Fiji has seen three coups in the last 20 years.


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VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Armed troops at the prime minister's residence



SEE ALSO
Fiji army moves to control Suva
04 Dec 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Fiji's army head warns of action
03 Dec 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Fiji PM returns amid coup fears
02 Dec 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Anxious times for frustrated Fijians
30 Nov 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Fiji army head sets coup deadline
30 Nov 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Profile: Fiji's military leader
24 Nov 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: Fiji
01 Dec 06 |  Country profiles

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