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Commodore Bainimarama, Military Leader
"We will not accept any demands"
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The BBC's Phil Mercer
"The military is in a very difficult position here"
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The BBC's Valerie Jones
"The army is now in control around the capital"
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Tuesday, 30 May, 2000, 09:50 GMT 10:50 UK
Rebels reject martial law
Man on lamppost
A man keeps watch from a perch near Parliament House
The leader of the rebels holding 30 hostages in the Fijian parliament building has refused to accept the authority of the country's new military ruler.

I think Commodore Bainimarama is a lost cause

George Speight

George Speight, who led Fiji's coup attempt on 19 May, said he believed the military was split on whether to support his bid to overthrow the government.

Commodore Frank Bainimarama, who declared martial law on Monday, has revoked Fiji's multi-racial constitution. He has also said he will grant Mr Speight an amnesty.

Commodore Bainimarama
Bainimarama has failed to win Speight's confidence
The lastest moves meet Mr Speight's key demands, who said he was acting to defend the rights of ethnic Fijians.

The constitution had allowed the country's first ever ethnic Indian prime minister to take office last year.

A decree issued by Commodore Bainimarama said it was now "wholly removed".

No progress

A meeting between Fijian military negotiators and Mr Speight's advisers has ended with no sign of progress.

The meeting took place on Tuesday afternoon at a theological college near the parliament building.

George Speight at church service
George Speight refuses to speak to the new military ruler
According to a military spokesman quoted by New Zealand International Radio the military negotiators were trying to ascertain the rebels' position.

The two sides were expected to meet again later on Tuesday.

Mr Speight has refused to negotiate directly with Commodore Bainimarama, whom he accused of remaining loyal to President Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara.

"I think Commodore Bainimarama is a lost cause," Mr Speight said.

"I think he is so blinded by his allegiances to Ratu Mara that it clouds his ability to take the right decisions."

Streets calm

Rubbish lorry
A rubbish lorry negotiates an army checkpoint in central Suva
The streets of capital, Suva, have been calm and orderly, with many people returning to their offices after the lifting of the overnight curfew.

Soldiers wearing flak jackets and armed with automatic weapons have replaced unarmed police at checkpoints in Suva.

Commodore Bainimarama said the Fiji Military Forces reserved the right to use force if necessary to maintain order.

He said his main object was "to take the country towards peace and stability and the wellbeing of Fiji".

International fears

Fiji's neighbours in the Pacific have expressed growing concern about the political crisis, and are demanding an early return to democratic government.

Australia said it wanted urgent talks with Fiji's new ruler.

It warned Commodore Bainimarama not to strike deals with Mr Speight, an ethnic Fijian who is demanding the removal of ethnic Indians from senior government positions.

Fiji in crisis
19 May - George Speight seizes parliament and Prime Minister Chaudhry
20 May - Speight swears himself in as prime minister
27 May - President Mara sacks Chaudhry to try to end crisis
28 May - policeman killed as pro-coup supporters take to the streets
29 May - Army chief declares martial law
"I fear that Fiji is going to lurch back towards a racially-based constitution and that would be tragic and unacceptable," said Australian Prime Minister John Howard.

New Zealand joined Australia, France, and the US in warning citizens to get out of Fiji.

The UK Foreign Office has warned against all but essential travel to Fiji.

Mr Ratu Mara is reported to have spent the first night of martial law on board a navy vessel in Suva harbour.

The president's office said he had agreed to step aside until the crisis was over.

In a further sign of international opprobrium, the Olympic torch relay, which had been scheduled to go through Fiji on Saturday on its way to the Sydney games in September, has been diverted.

Olympic authorities in Australia announced that the torch would bypass the country.

And an international yacht race from Auckland to Suva has been abandoned because of the political crisis in Fiji.

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See also:

29 May 00 | Media reports
Fiji martial law declaration
29 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Analysis: Coup threatens Fiji's unity
29 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Fiji army takes to streets
28 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Policeman killed by Fiji rebels
27 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Fiji prime minister sacked
19 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Who is Fiji's coup leader?
26 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Fiji troops defect to coup leader
19 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Ethnic split haunts Fijian politics
29 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Cook condemns Fiji violence
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