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Fiji faces peacekeeping ban, UN chief warns

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan has warned of a ban on Fiji's participation in any future peacekeeping duties if the military is involved in a coup.

Mr Annan yesterday rang Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase to relay the message and to tell him that he had been contacted by army chief, Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama.

Mr Annan said he refused to speak to Commodore Bainimarama until he had discussions first with Mr Qarase.

After speaking with Mr Qarase, Mr Annan said he would make it clear to Commodore Bainimarama, once again, that a military seizure of the constitutionally elected and appointed government in Fiji would not be accepted and recognised.

"A direct consequence would be that the UN would ask Fiji to withdraw from all UN peacekeeping operations," said Mr Annan in a statement yesterday.

Mr Qarase said the Government hoped this message would be taken and considered very seriously by the military.

"It is our soldiers and the people generally who will bear the brunt of an unlawful takeover of Government," he said. Acting military commander Captain (Navy) Esala Teleni said he was unaware of the conversation between Mr Annan and Mr Bainimarama.

"I am not aware of the conversation and what transpired, so I cannot comment further on the issue," he said.

There are more than 500 soldiers serving in Sinai and Iraq, with police officers serving in Sudan and Cambodia.

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