Britain announces new sanctions against Fiji

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The Independent Online

Britain announced new sanctions against Fiji on Friday in response to the political crisis in the Pacific island nation that threatens to strip the large Indian minority of most of its representation.

Britain announced new sanctions against Fiji on Friday in response to the political crisis in the Pacific island nation that threatens to strip the large Indian minority of most of its representation.

Rebel leader George Speight led a May 19 coup with the goal of guaranteeing political superiority and affirmative action for indigenous Fijians and promising redistribution of resources to benefit them.

The last 18 of dozens of legislators taken hostage in Parliament were freed last week as part of a deal that Speight said would disenfranchise ethnic Indians, who make up 44 percent of the population.

Britain recalled its envoy to Fiji on Tuesday, and the country has already been suspended from the councils of the Commonwealth.

Saying Britain wanted to see an early return to full democracy, Foreign Office minister John Battle on Friday announced cancellation of Foreign Office assistance programs and planned military visits.

"We are determined to pursue a commitment by the Fijian authorities to a timetable for return to democratic government based on a fair constitution," he said. "We will follow this up bilaterally, through the European Union and through the Commonwealth."

He said Britain was pressing its EU partners to impose restrictions on travel by Speight and his associates.

"We are canceling all foreign office funded assistance to Fiji's government.

"All Royal Navy visits and joint military exercises have been canceled. All other future U.K. defense cooperation has been reviewed," he said.

"We will not issue licenses for any arms or security equipment for export to Fiji where there is a clear risk that it will be used for internal repression."

Battle's statement said the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group had agreed to meet in September to review the progress the Fijian authorities are making in returning the country to democracy.

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