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FIJI: US clarifies stand over Fiji crisis

Published: Mon 28 Aug 2000 08:39 AM
FIJI: US clarifies stand over Fiji crisis
EMBASSY CLEARS AIR
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SUVA: The United States government has suspended more than $1 million in security and other assistance to Fiji, cancelled a number of ship visits to Suva and banned more than 130 people from entering the US because it did not support the hostage-taking in Parliament, the Fiji Sun reports.
The US Embassy in Suva said the US government had taken these actions in strongly condemning the overthrow of the elected People's Coalition government on May 19.
The embassy was reacting to a media report which quoted [deposed Prime Minister Mahendra] Chaudhry telling the Times of India that the US Embassy had put indirect pressure on his government and was "pushy" about the American firm Timber resource management (TRM) being awarded the mahogany contract.
Chaudhry reportedly said the coup was triggered by his government's decision to award the contract to British government-owned Commonwealth Development Corporation (CDC) over TRM and the game plan was to remove his government.
But the embassy said insinuations attributed to Chaudhry regarding the alleged backing of the US government in the attempted May 19 coup was "completely unfounded, untrue and unfortunate".
It said Chaudhry should know better than anyone else the straightforward role it played in advocating on behalf of a US company's bid on Fiji's public tender for mahogany resources.
The embassy said an important role of all nations' embassies and high commissions was to promote their countries' commercial interests and that it would continue to promote American businesses and commercial interests in the future.
"In that regard we helped arrange a meeting between Mr Chaudhry and State Department officials during a visit by Mr Chaudhry to New York," it said.
The embassy said it also sponsored an orientation visit to New York of two cabinet ministers and two of Chaudhry's key advisers who met with senior financial experts in Wall Street to discuss how the US bond market would be involved in financial aspects of the US company's bid.
It said any notion that the US supported the demise of constitutional democracy in Fiji was ludicrous, pernicious and completely false.
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