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Last Updated: Thursday, 14 June 2007, 08:03 GMT 09:03 UK
Fiji expels New Zealand diplomat
New Zealand's expelled High Commissioner Michael Green (handout photo)
Michael Green had been high commissioner in Fiji since 2004
Fiji's post-coup leadership has expelled New Zealand's top diplomat, accusing him of interfering in the country's domestic affairs.

The interim government said "provisions remain open" for New Zealand to replace Michael Green as high commissioner.

But Wellington reacted with fury at the expulsion, and warned Fiji that there would be repercussions.

New Zealand was one of dozens of nations to strongly criticise last December's bloodless coup in Fiji.

It imposed sanctions following military leader Cmdr Frank Bainimarama's move to topple elected Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase and his government.

Media reports suggested Mr Green, who had been high commissioner in Fiji since December 2004, had upset the government by meeting members of the deposed government.

Diplomatic backlash

"The practice of quiet diplomacy was foremost given all the chances to prevail by Fiji authorities in our efforts to seek understanding and co-operation of... Mr Green to stop interfering in Fiji's domestic affairs, " the Fijian government statement said.

It also went on to say that Fiji's own diplomat in Wellington had "continuously been snubbed" by the New Zealand authorities, "and the attitude of his counterpart in Fiji has done little to help the situation".

Cmdr Bainimarama (file image)
Cmdr Bainimarama has been sensitive to foreign criticism of the coup

The statement ended by saying Fiji considered this a "purely bilateral matter", and should not have any implications for its relations with other countries.

New Zealand said it would now be assessing what next steps to take. It has already suspended military ties with Fiji and imposed travel bans on the new leadership since the coup in December.

Foreign Minister Winston Peters told the BBC that New Zealand was "looking at every aspect of our bilateral relations" and may impose measures as early as next week.

He said the action could involve issuing new travel advisories or putting a freeze on New Zealand bank accounts held by Fiji's leadership.

But he insisted aid would not be affected. "We regard the Fijian people as innocent in this matter. We would not want to act in a way that would seem to be a mirror image of the country we are dealing with, in terms of the government."

Cmdr Bainimarama said he had no choice in carrying out the coup on 5 December 2006 because Mr Qarase's government was corrupt.

He was also angered by a government plan to offer amnesties to those involved in a 2000 coup that he had helped put down.

But he has come under huge pressure from overseas since the coup, and lifted a state of emergency in the country at the end of last month.

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