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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 December 2006, 13:04 GMT
Fiji imposes state of emergency
Jona Senilagakali (l) listens to Cmdr Bainimarama (r) after being sworn in as prime minister
Jona Senilagakali has been sworn in as interim prime minister
A state of emergency has been declared on the South Pacific island state of Fiji, as the military tightens its grip a day after a bloodless coup.

The army has dissolved parliament, sworn in a caretaker prime minister and sacked Fiji's acting police chief.

Deposed Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase, Australia and New Zealand are urging Fijians to peacefully resist the coup.

But coup leader Commodore Frank Bainimarama warned: "The military will suppress very quickly any uprising."

The international community has been swift to criticise the fourth coup in two decades in the Fijian archipelago.

I believe there will be a peaceful reaction by thousands and thousands in the next few days
Laisenia Qarase
Deposed Prime Minister

The UN secretary general has demanded that the government be restored, the US has suspended aid and Australia and New Zealand have imposed a raft of sanctions.

The Commonwealth is expected to suspend Fiji on Friday, its Secretary General, Don McKinnon, has said.

Disruption 'threat'

Jona Senilagakali, a military doctor with no political background, was sworn in as interim prime minister at a ceremony in the capital, Suva, on Wednesday.

A new acting police chief has been appointed after the incumbent was sacked for refusing to take orders from the new regime.

A Fijian soldier mans a military checkpoint in Suva

"For those who do not agree with what we are doing, we respect your opinion, but do not interfere with the process that is currently under way," Cmdr Bainimarama said in a national broadcast.

"There is no point in debating the legality or otherwise of our actions. Qarase and his cronies are not coming back."

He said the military wanted a peaceful transition of power to an interim administration.

But plans for a caretaker government were "on hold" after the Great Council of Chiefs - a powerful body that appoints the president - had cancelled a meeting scheduled for next week, he said.

He also appears to be having problems recruiting members to a new administration, after saying that anyone who was interested in joining an interim government should apply for a position.

Cmdr Bainimarama said he had declared a state of emergency after intelligence reports suggested some people were planning civil disruption.

The move gives him the right to impose curfews, multiply checkpoints and call up army reservists, the BBC's Phil Mercer in Suva says.

Travel bans

Despite the coup and the increased presence of soldiers and checkpoints, the situation is calm, our correspondent adds.

Soldiers sent to local media offices on Tuesday to ensure no statements by the deposed prime minister could be broadcast are now reported to have been withdrawn.

Fiji's Commodore Frank Bainimarama (left) and Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase
The two men have been in dispute for months

Mr Qarase has called on Fijians to peacefully oppose the coup.

"I believe there will be a peaceful reaction by thousands and thousands in the next few days," Mr Qarase told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation before leaving for his home village on the remote Lau islands, at the request of the military.

Despite being banished, Mr Qarase - who has been at loggerheads with the commodore over his plans to pardon the plotters of a coup in 2000 - insists he remains Fiji's legitimate leader.

Scores of protesters gathered outside the deposed prime minister's home in the capital on Tuesday, praying and singing hymns under the eye of the soldiers.

Both New Zealand and Australia are calling for Fijian military officers and civil servants to defy Cmdr Bainimarama.


Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has also urged the people of Fiji to "show passive resistance to this imposition of dictatorship on their country".

Both countries have suspended military ties with Fiji and imposed travel bans on anyone linked to the coup. New Zealand has also suspended aid and broken off sporting contacts.

Fiji has a population of only 900,000 but is a major tourist destination and attracts up to 400,000 visitors a year.

It has also witnessed considerable political tension over the past 20 years between ethnic Fijians, who make up about 50% of the population, and ethnic Indians, who make up about 44%.

Australia and New Zealand condemn coup in Fiji

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