Page last updated at 02:09 GMT, Saturday, 11 April 2009 03:09 UK

Fiji coup leader restored as PM


Commodore Frank Bainimarama is sworn in as PM

Fiji's leader has restored his military chief, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, to the post of interim prime minister a day after suspending the constitution.

President Ratu Josefa Iloilo acted after a senior court ruled that Commodore Bainimarama had come to power illegally through a coup in 2006.

The president's actions have been condemned by the US and Australia.

Commodore Bainimarama was sworn in at a ceremony at Fiji's Government House, from which foreign media were banned.

The president declared on Friday that he had taken over the government after the Appeal Court ruled that the current government was illegitimate, and he dismissed the judges.

Appearing on TV, he said he had appointed himself as "head of state in the new order" and that his choice of interim prime minister would serve for five years to allow time for necessary reforms before elections could be held.

Pressure for elections

Mr Iloilo has been a staunch supporter of Mr Bainimarama, who has repeatedly ignored international demands to restore democracy, says the BBC's Phil Mercer in Sydney.

Fiji President Ratu Josefa Iloilo, file pic
President Iloilo has been a staunch supporter of Frank Bainimarama

The three-judge Court of Appeal panel had upheld a challenge to Mr Bainimarama's rule by ousted Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase.

The court said the military government was illegal and should be replaced with an interim government, led by neither Mr Qarase nor Mr Bainimarama.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said the political upheaval in Fiji was "grave and unwelcome".

The US also expressed its "deep disappointment", while UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for the "restoration of a legitimate government" in the troubled South Pacific nation.

The army uprising in December 2006 was the country's fourth coup in 20 years.

The military said it had been forced to remove a corrupt and racist administration led by Mr Qarase.

But critics of Commodore Bainimarama have accused him of being a "power-hungry dictator".

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