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Page last updated at 16:08 GMT, Thursday, 25 December 2008

UN to mediate for Fiji democracy

File image of Fiji's military leader, Frank Bainimarama
Bainimarama says Fiji needs new laws before a poll can be held

The United Nations has said it will work with the Commonwealth to seek an agreement on the timing of parliamentary elections in Fiji.

The aim would be to bring democracy back to the military-ruled country.

Commodore Frank Bainarama ousted Fiji's elected government in a December 2006 coup.

Relations with neighbours New Zealand and Australia have deteriorated in recent days amid a series of mutual diplomatic expulsions.

Fiji has endured four military coups since 1987.

Its larger neighbours are frustrated at Mr Bainarama's apparent failure to fulfil a promise to restore democracy by April 2009.

He says he wants to introduce a new electoral system before holding any vote.

A statement from the UN said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon "emphasises that the primary responsibility for ensuring the country's early return to parliamentary democracy rests with the interim government."

It said: "The secretary-general has written to the interim government of Fiji to accept its request for the United Nations to work jointly with the Commonwealth in mediating a political dialogue aimed at reaching an agreement on the timing and modalities of a parliamentary election to return Fiji to full democracy."

New Zealand and Australia have headed international pressure on Mr Bainarama to return the nation to democratic rule as soon as possible.

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