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The BBC's Phil Mercer
"Fiji is bracing itself for yet more political uncertainty"
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The BBC's Dominic Hughes in Sydney
"Australia is one of the biggest aid donors to Fiji"
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George Speight
"Sanctions are the usual rubbish put out by politicians in Australia and New Zealand"
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Tuesday, 18 July, 2000, 09:52 GMT 10:52 UK
Speight rejects new Fiji government
Iloilo and Speight
Speight (right) arrived unexpectedly to greet the new president
Fiji's rebel leader George Speight has rejected the country's new interim government, warning that its appointment will trigger further unrest.

Mr Speight, who overthrew the previous government, said he was not prepared to accept Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase - a banker installed by the military more than two weeks ago.

I think some of the people are trying to do me in and they are going to meet with some very strong resistance

George Speight

There are no ethnic Indians on the list of 20 interim cabinet members, although one, George Shiu Raj, becomes Assistant Minister for Multi-Ethnic Affairs.

Australia - Fiji's main trading partner - has responded by imposing sanctions on Fiji, and announcing a substantial reduction in aid.

The move followed the swearing-in of the new Fijian president, Ratu Josefo Iloilo.

Most members of the new cabinet were in the civilian government installed by the Fijian military during the country's political crisis.

Cabinet posts

A handful of Mr Speight's supporters have been offered cabinet and assistant ministerial positions, but rebel spokesman Joe Nata said the new administration was "totally unacceptable and insulting".

"They are treading on some dangerous ground. It will result in a backlash," Mr Speight warned.

George Speight
Speight: Australia and New Zealand talking "rubbish"
The former democratically-elected cabinet, headed by ethnic Indian prime minister Mahendra Chaudhry, resigned after being held hostage for eight weeks by gunmen loyal to Mr Speight.

The rebel leader, an ethnic Fijian, opposes any domination of Fijian politics by ethnic Indians, who make up 44% of the country's 800,000 population and dominate the economy.

Mr Speight said on Tuesday he expected his group to dominate the government, warning of trouble if that did not happen.

Trade sanctions

"I think some of the people are trying to do me in and they are going to meet with some very strong resistance," he said.

Mahendra Chaudhry
Chaudhry: Promises to return to office
Australia meanwhile said it would cut aid to Fiji by 30% and impose some trade, defence and sporting sanctions to push the South Pacific nation to return to constitutional government.

It has also suspended all naval visits and joint military exercises.

New Zealand imposed trade restrictions on Monday.

Fiji's hostage crisis ended five days ago, with the release by the rebels of 18 members of Mr Chaudhry's administration.

The new government is to help draw up a new constitution and plan fresh elections. It is due to remain in office for two years.

Unity pledge

President Iloilo - a frail and elderly traditional chief - pledged to bring unity to Fiji.

"We are one country and one people," he said at the ceremony in the capital, Suva.

The new vice-president, Jope Seniloli , is a close associate of Mr Speight, who himself made a surprise last-minute appearance at the ceremony.

Across the country, life has been getting back to normal, with all schools re-opening for classes.

But the military are worried about weapons stolen from the army by rebels which have still not been accounted for.

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See also:

13 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
Speight: I'd do it again
18 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
Fiji's new order: Key players
13 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
Chaudhry fears for Fiji's future
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