Page last updated at 23:03 GMT, Friday, 1 May 2009 00:03 UK

Fiji suspended from Pacific forum

Frank Bainimarama (file photo)
Cmdr Frank Bainimarama has ruled out polls before 2014

South Pacific nations have suspended military-ruled Fiji from a regional bloc for its failure to hold elections.

The 16-member Pacific Islands Forum had given Fijian PM Frank Bainimarama until 1 May to set a poll date this year.

But Commodore Bainimarama - who seized power in a 2006 coup - said that elections were impossible before 2014.

Forum chair Toke Talagi said there was no place for "a regime which displays such a total disregard for basic human rights, democracy and freedom".

The suspension means Fiji cannot take part in bloc events or receive development funding from the forum, said Mr Talagi, who is also the premier of Niue.

Cmdr Bainimarama ousted elected leader Laisenia Qarase in December 2006, accusing him of corruption and discrimination against Indo-Fijians.

He says a new constitution is needed before polls can be held and, on Friday, said that he would not be rushed into elections.

In early April a Fijian court ruled that Cmdr Bainimarama's coup was illegal - but President Ratu Josefa Iloilo ignored the ruling and dismissed the judges.

Media restrictions were also tightened and a number of foreign journalists expelled.

Australia and New Zealand have accused Cmdr Bainimarama of running a military dictatorship.

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