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Tuesday, 30 May, 2000, 12:35 GMT 13:35 UK
International dismay at Fiji coup
George Speight
George Speight's coup has drawn international scorn
The Commonwealth has called a meeting to discuss how to respond to the crisis in Fiji.

Foreign ministers are to convene in London next week, although a date has yet to be agreed by all eight countries taking part.

Fiji's neighbours in the Pacific have expressed growing concern over events, but New Zealand said it was not yet time to impose sanctions.

Australia - which earlier threatened sanctions - now says the hostage crisis should be resolved first. Canberra said it wanted urgent talks with Fiji's new ruler.

It warned the head of the military, Commodore Bainimarama, not to strike deals with coup leader George Speight, an indigenous Fijian who is demanding the removal of ethnic Indians from senior government positions.

"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.

Travel warnings

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.

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, has been diverted.

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

Indian envoy

In a sign of its concern over the situation, the Indian Government has despatched an envoy to Australia and New Zealand for talks on Fiji.

India's state-run TV network said the envoy, ST Devare, had declined to comment on the purpose of his trip.

However, analysts believe he is being sent to try to start a dialogue about preventing the possible exodus of Indians from the island.

India has said it also wants to send an envoy to Fiji itself.

Indians are estimated to constitute 44% of Fiji's population.

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See also:

29 May 00 | Media reports
Fiji martial law declaration
29 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Fiji army takes to streets
29 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Cook condemns Fiji violence
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