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Former Fiji PM Calls To Lift Australian Sanctions
Rabuka says Fiji ‘still very friendly’ towards Australia

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, Feb. 25, 2013) – A former prime minister of Fiji has called for immediate lifting of Australian sanctions on the country, saying diplomatic relations between the nations have "never been as bad as it is".

Sitiveni Rabuka, who led the 1987 coups and later served as Fiji's elected prime minister from 1992 to 1999, warned that the longer Australia isolates Fiji, the more difficult it will be to restore relations.

Mr. Rabuka told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat that other world powers, particularly China, were moving into the vacuum created by Australia's absence.

"[W]e have a lot of Chinese influence in the Pacific now," he said. "Everything we are selling to the European Union and our neighbors, we can sell to China. Maybe we will get the same things in return, different brand."

Australia imposed sanctions on Fiji in 2006 and has vowed to keep them in place until democracy is restored.

Mr. Rabuka said sanctions should be lifted, "democracy or not".

"Australia trades and has relationships with some doubtful democracies around the world so I do not think that Fiji, small Fiji, we are just a small player in international affairs and we need to take whatever crumbs we can get and move on," he said.

"We just want stability and that stability can be under pure democracy or impure democracy. Fiji is still a very friendly nation to Australia. The leaders may not be as friendly as the people but they are a minority."

Mr. Rabuka will be speaking at an international defense and security dialogue in Sydney on Tuesday.

Radio Australia: www.abc.net.au/ra
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