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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 December 2006, 04:54 GMT
New Fiji PM defends coup action
Fijian Prime Minister Jona Senilagakali is sworn into office
Mr Senilagakali said elections could be as far as two years away
The newly-installed prime minister of Fiji, appointed by the Pacific Island state's military chief, has defended the country's bloodless coup.

Jona Senilagakali conceded the coup had been "illegal" but said it was better than keeping a corrupt government.

He said Fiji needed a different kind of democracy and said elections might not take place for up to two years.

Mr Senilagakali also warned powerful Pacific neighbours not to meddle in the affairs of the Fijian archipelago.

"It's an illegal takeover to clean up the mess of a much bigger illegal activity of the previous government," Mr Senilagakali said of the coup, speaking to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

'Divine authority'

The 77-year-old military doctor said he was surprised when he was appointed prime minister by the coup's leader, Commodore Frank Bainimarama.

A Fijian soldier mans a military checkpoint in Suva

He said he had been ordered to accept his new position but believed he had been given "divine authority" to lead the country.

The coup, which took place on Tuesday, was the fourth in the former British colony in 20 years.

Mr Senilagakali said Australia and New Zealand, who have already imposed sanctions on Fiji, along with the US and the UK, should steer clear.

"I warn the Australian and New Zealand prime ministers to stay out of our business and to respect the sovereignty of the Fiji islands," he said.

The coup was followed by swift international condemnation and threats of isolation.

The UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, has demanded that the government be restored and the US has suspended aid.

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%.

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