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The BBC's Phil Mercer
"The cancellation will fuel Fiji's political uncertainty"
 real 28k

Joe Nata, George Speight's spokesman
"We started this thing and we should be consulted if this thing is going to be resolved peacefully"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 19 July, 2000, 06:47 GMT 07:47 UK
Delay to new Fiji Government
George Speight
George Speight is threatening to stir up more unrest
Rebel leader George Speight says he has not adequately been consulted in the formulation of Fiji's new government and its swearing-in has been indefinitely postponed.

Mr Speight said the new President, Ratu Josefa Iloilo, had promised he would be included in negotiations, but he had not approved the cabinet list announced on Tuesday.

Fiji is verging on civil war

Joe Nata, rebel spokesman
"I have been in touch with the president through a high-ranking chief of mine to express my disappointment," Mr Speight said.

Earier the acting prime minister said the swearing-in had not taken place because President Iloilo was too ill to attend, but a rebel spokesman said the ceremony had been deferred to allow for further talks over the make-up of the new government.

President Iloilo
Fiji's new president has already been sworn in
Fiji is "verging on a civil war," said the spokesman, Joe Nata.

The new government, intended to end a rebellion over the role of ethnic Indians in political life, had already come under fire from rebel leader George Speight.

He has threatened to stir up more unrest, although the new 20-member cabinet contains several of his supporters, and no ethnic Indians.

Mr Speight, who overthrew the previous government and held more than 20 people hostage for almost two months, said he was not prepared to accept Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase - a banker installed by the military more than two weeks ago.

Rebel warning

Mr Qarase told reporters who had gathered for Wednesday's ceremony: "Regrettably, President Ratu Josefa Iloilo is indisposed this morning, he is resting at his home so regrettably the swearing-in ceremony was postponed this morning."

Mr Speight and his supporters had warned the president that if he went ahead with the ceremony then there would trouble, said Mr Nata.

Nationalist rebels had been occupying parliament since 19 May
Asked on Tuesday if Fiji could expect a return to unrest, Mr Speight said: "I am predicting it. The fun is just beginning."

Mr Speight, 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.

The only Indian named in the new administration was George Shiu Raj, who was appointed one of two assistant ministers for multi-ethnic affairs - a non-cabinet post.

Mr Speight's nationalist rebels and about 200 of their supporters on Wednesday finally left the parliament compound in the capital Suva which they had been occupying since storming the building on 19 May.

We are one, as one nation and one people

President Iloilo
Government soldiers have begun to move in to regain control of the complex, which is littered with burnt-out cars, makeshift shelters and rubbish. Bomb experts are being brought in to search for explosives.

One of the last rebel supporters to leave said they were setting up a new camp outside Suva. She said the struggle that began nine weeks ago with the armed overthrow of the government would continue.

However at his swearing-in ceremony on Tuesday, President Iloilo had spoken of forging reconciliation in Fiji.

"We are one, as one nation and one people," he said.

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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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