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President Issue Deadlocks Talks

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By Joe Yaya

© USP Journalism Programme

SUVA: Talks between Fiji's rebel leader George Speight and the military have again ended in a deadlock and 27 hostages from the elected government still remain in captivity.

Military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Filipo Tarakinikini said last night that the talks had come up against a wall and efforts to move forward had failed.

"We came away from the talks, keeping the door open if Mr Speight and his group will want to come and meet us on the agreement reached two days ago," he said.

It seemed that the military and Speight's group had reached an agreement on Friday night that the Great Council of Chiefs should nominate the chief to fill the office of President and the military would hand over executive power to him.

However, when negotiators met on Saturday morning, Speight's group changed their stance and demanded that the former Vice-President, Ratu Josefa Iloilo, be sworn in as President by the military.

The army refused to agree to this demand by Speight, and stood by the arrangement that the GCC's nominee be sworn in as president.

"We maintain that the presidency of this country must be selected from the Great Council of Chiefs," he said.

"We want to ensure that the holder of position of President must command the confidence of all the chiefs," said Lt-Col Tarakinikini.

The military blamed Speight and his group for undermining the talks through their tactics used to gain maximum concessions.

"We have negotiated in good faith up until this point in time. We are conscious that the country has waited patiently, our people are suffering because we are determined to resolve the crisis in a way that is satisfactory as much as possible under the circumstances to all our people," he said.

"It seems that Mr Speight and his group believe that they can through their tactics of negotiation extract from us every last ounce of concession that they can possibly can."

"We are not prepared to let that happen.

"We are willing to sign the accord that we agreed on two days ago, but beyond that, we just see a endless list of demands one after another as they have been showing over this last five weeks."

The military stressed again to the media that they are negotiating for the safe release of the hostages, then they would hand over executive authority to the GCC nomination once they are satisfied with the security situation in the country.

Meanwhile, Speight's group remained adamant that the hostages would be released once their nominee for President, Ratu Josefa Iloilo, was sworn in by decree by the military.

In a media conference at Parliament late last night, Speight told journalists that all the hostages would be released when executive authority had been transferred to Ratu Josefa.

"Because then the decision is out of the army's hands because quite frankly we do not recognise the right of the army to retain executive authority and head of state of this nation on the back of a coup executed by civilians in the interest of Fijians," said Speight.

"The army came in on a law and order platform and they are now wishing to get into a governance platform."


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