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Pacific Islands leaders express concerns over Fiji situation
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Leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) on Wednesday expressed "serious" concerns at Fiji's absence to this year's PIF summit, urging the country's interim government to honor its commitment to hold elections by March 2009.

The leaders, coming from 15 of the 16-member regional organization in the Pacific, reaffirmed the importance of maintaining and encouraging continued pressure from the Forum and other members of the international community to meet the deadline.

It was at last year's PIF summit that Fiji interim Prime Minister Commodore Frank Bainimarama pledged to hold fresh elections by the end of March 2009 under the rules of the current Fiji constitution.

Bainimarama, who seized power in a bloodless coup in December 2006, seems have backflipped and said fresh polls will not be held until the adoption of a "People's Charter", which would require big political and constitutional changes in the nation, including an end to communal voting.

The interim leader announced on Monday that his country was pulling out of this year's PIF summit, triggering concerns among his fellow PIF partners who are expected to discuss with him face- to-face at the summit about the election process.

Reaffirming the readiness of Forum members to continue to assist Fiji in preparing the election, the PIF leaders acknowledged in their communique that there are long-term issues that need to be addressed in Fiji, including through independent and inclusive political dialogue.

They also vowed to conduct the dialogue as a "genuine" one, " without precondition, threats, ultimatum or predetermined outcomes "and with "support by all key stakeholders."

The leaders agreed that they would consider a further special meeting by the end of 2008 to consider "special measures" in relation to Fiji, and that "measures to be considered include the suspension of particular governments from the Forum".

(Xinhua News Agency August 21, 2008)

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