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Chaudhry calls for rapid return of his government

DEPOSED Fijian Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry met PM Helen Clark today and stressed the agenda and pace of the return his elected government "has to be dictated by the international community, led by Australia and New Zealand and not by the regime in Fiji as was the case in 1987."

Mr Chaudhry also thanked Ms Clark's government and New Zealanders for their support and help. He praised the "smart sanctions" adding they were effective and would hopefully continue.

Describing the lunch-time talks he had with Ms Clark and her team, the urbane but obviously jaded, Chaudhry told the post-cabinet Press Conference: "We had a useful discussion and have discussed specific ways to assist us to a swift return to democratic rule in Fiji.

"It was vital to impress the importance of finding an acceptable timetable for restoration of democratic rule in Fiji and I hope that is as soon as possible."

Ms Clark said formal talks revolved around the restoration of democratic rule, visa waivers, and humanitarian considerations.

"We are considering relief (for 50 Fijian-Indian families living as refugees) and how to go about providing it......Mr Goff (Foreign Minister, Phil) will have a decision within 24 hours.

"Informally we talked about ways to press Fiji's cause at international forums and the General Assembly," Ms Clark said.

Asked if that meant a positive decision had been made on her attendance at the upcoming South Pacific Forum in Kiribati Ms Clark joked she might be going: "As long as I'm not sitting next to Mr Speight (Fijian Coup leader, George Speight) but that's doubtful as hopefully he'll be still in jail".

Chaudhry also voiced his anger at Speight: "For all the pain and suffering he caused I would like see him charged with treason which carries a life sentence". In regards to Fiji's main money spinner, tourism, Chaudhry remains very cautious.

"Peoples security comes first before economic well-being," he said.

"And with resorts being held up, pilots kidnapped and tourists threatened by knives, for the time being, Fiji is simply not a safe destination", he said.

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