Friday, June 2, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Speight may be part of govt
Fiji military, rebels hold meeting

SUVA, Fiji, June 1 (AP) — Coup leader George Speight and Fiji’s new military ruler achieved a breakthrough today that could lead to the release of hostages, including the deposed ethnic Indian Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry, officials on both sides of the crisis said.

Mr Speight and the military leader, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, met face to face for the first time and agreed to form an interim government, including figures from the military and the rebels, according to one of Mr Speight’s allies.

A military spokesman reported a “major breakthrough,” but he said he had few details.

The two sides appeared at odds over how soon the hostages might be released, however.

The military spokesman, Capt Eroni Volavola, said “We can safely say that within the next 24 to 36 hours you will start seeing a lot of very positive things coming out.”

But Mr Speight’s ally, Mr Iliesa Duvuloco, said the truce would first need to be considered by Fiji’s Great Council of Chiefs — who hold important influence in this island nation — and that might not happen till Monday.

Captain Volavola acknowledged the resolution of the standoff could lead to Mr Speight or some of his rebellious supporters playing a role in a new government for Fiji, although he said Mr Speight was unlikely to become Prime Minister.

Captain Volavola spoke to reporters after Mr Speight met for more than three hours with military negotiators inside the barracks from which Commodore Bainimarama has been running the country since taking charge on Monday.

Mr Speight had gone in with allies he has named to his own “Cabinet” for running the country.

NEW DELHI (PTI): Australia has told India that it is going to press for suspension of Fiji’s membership from the Commonwealth and advocate stiff measures till restoration of democracy in that country.

This was conveyed by Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer during discussions with Mr S.T. Devare, Secretary (Economic Relations) in the External Affairs Ministry in Canberra on Thursday.

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