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FIJI: Appeal to end northern rebellion

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SUVA: Fiji's Daily Post today appealed to rebels to end the siege of Sukanaivalu barracks in Labasa as the military authorities extended the deadline by another day following reports of more hostage-taking.

The newspaper called on the chiefs involved to finish the "Speight-style of lawlessness" and respect the new interim government.

"The siege has to end. It has gone on long enough," the paper said.

"How much longer, will leaders in the north, the Tui Labasa, Ratu Joeli Ritova, his cousin Ratu Josefa Dimuri, and those closely associated with this Speight-style lawlessness continue to defy legal authority."

Interim Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase had established a new ministry of reconciliation.

"The dream team, as they prefer to call themselves, consist of men and women of goodwill, vision and courage to take this country from the deep wood into the open field," the paper said.

"What happened since May 19 is now history. The waters ahead remain uncharted. It will take courage and unmatched skills to get the ship through. It cannot be done without participation of those from the north."

In other developments:

* Police said armed rebels yesterday forced Indo-Fijian families out of their homes and terrorised them at Dreketi, about 50km from Labasa, before taking about 20 men hostage.

* Military spokesperson Major Howard Politini said the the ultimatum to the rebels holding the barracks at Labasa had been extended for a further 24 hours.

* Elected former Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry left Fiji for Australia yesterday as a guest of the Australian Government. He will brief Prime Minister John Howard about events in Fiji and will receive medical treatment for distress suffered as a hostage.

* Former Deputy Prime Minister Dr Tupeni Baba said threats by Qarase to take legal action against the ousted elected government were "irrelevant". He said the people's coalition government was the only legal, legitimate and democratically elected government and had nothing to fear.

* Adi Samanunu Talakuli flew back to Malaysia as Fiji's High Commissioner while senior civil servants discussed her future as a diplomat. She is being investigated by Foreign Affairs for her involvement in local politics in support of rebel leader George Speight, who was arrested last Wednesday night and is now detained on the island of Nukulau, near Suva, awaiting possible charges of treason.

* About 30 soldiers held hostage in the Natasiri highlands by Monosavu landowners were released at the weekend following talks between the captors and the military. Landowners who four weeks ago seized the hydroelectric dam, which normally supplies 80 per cent of the country's power, are still occupying the area.

+++niuswire

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