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The BBC's Jonathan Head
"Fiji now faces international isolation"
 real 28k

Rebel leader George Speight
"Our rights come above everything else"
 real 28k

Fijian military spokesman, Col Filipo Tarakinikini
"The rebels have substantial political support"
 real 28k

Friday, 2 June, 2000, 02:57 GMT 03:57 UK
Fiji hostages 'free by Monday'
soldiers meeting rebels
The Fijian military held talks with the rebels
The rebel leader in Fiji, George Speight, says he is ready to release more than 30 hostages, including the country's elected prime minister, in two or three days.



My plan is to release them before the Great Council of Chiefs meeting on Monday

George Speight
Mr Speight told journalists they would be freed before a meeting due on Monday of Fiji's indigenous chiefs, which will try to resolve the two-week-old political crisis.

The announcement came after Fiji's military leaders, who seized power on Sunday, and Mr Speight agreed to present rival proposals to the Council of Chiefs.

Both sides said they would respect the council's decision.


George Speight
Speight wants power for indigenous Fijians
Mr Speight says he is confident that the elders will support his view that the government should be dominated by indigenous Fijians.

"I am confident that this whole crisis, or crusade will come to an end in the next two or three days...everything will be finalised once and for all," he said.

Military spokesman Captain Eroni Volavola said: "I think we can say that within the next 24 to 36 hours, you'll start seeing a lot of very positive things coming out from parliament."

US sanctions warning

Earlier, the United States warned the new rulers of Fiji they risk losing US aid and could face other sanctions if they fail to restore constitutional government.

"We are ... considering a range of steps in consultation with other nations that could have a serious impact on Fiji's international contacts and on outside assistance," US State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said.

Mr Reeker said Fiji had not yet disqualified itself from all US aid, but noted that countries where the military had taken control by coup or decree lost the right to financial support.

"Repugnant" actions such as the coup in Fiji "fly in the face of international norms and standards of democracy," he said.

Skirmish

Despite the deal, a group of Mr Speight's supporters armed with clubs and sticks had a skirmish with soldiers and police outside the gates of the parliament building on Friday.


military patrol in Suva
The military are reluctant to confront the rebels
Earlier, Captain Volavola said Mr Speight or some of his supporters may be invited to play a role in a new civilian government.

But he added that the coup leader would be unlikely to become prime minister.

Until now, the military had only been prepared to allow the rebels membership of an advisory council to the government.

Asked if Mr Speight's rebels had agreed to give up their arms, Captain Volavola said: "That is one of the demands of the army, so that is something that will have to happen."

Speight's demands

Mr Speight has been holding Prime Minister Chaudhry hostage along with members of his government at the parliamentary complex since 19 May.

The rebel leader declared himself prime minister shortly after storming parliament and claiming power in the name of indigenous Fijians.

Mr Speight has demanded a government which is committed to keeping ethnic Indians - who make up about 44% of Fiji's population - out of the country's top jobs.

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See also:

01 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Fiji hostage 'breakthrough'
30 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
International dismay at Fiji coup
29 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Fiji army takes to streets
27 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Fiji prime minister sacked
31 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
In pictures: Fiji stand-off
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