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Fiji troops disarm police, PM besieged

Source: Xinhuanet | 12-05-2006 08:55

Fiji army beefs up grip on capital

WELLINGTON, Dec. 4 (Xinhua) -- Soldiers in combat gear set up checkpoints on all major roads to Fiji's capital Monday night in amore obvious sign of army takeover, said Xinhua witness.

Fiji military commander Voreqe Bainimarama (R) is handed a note by an officer (L) during a press conference confirming the bodyguards of Fiji's Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase and his ministers have been disarmed, in Suva on Dec. 4, 2006. (Xinhua/AFP Photo)

Military roadblocks are set up around the capital of Fiji. Troops tightened their stranglehold on the Fijian capital Suva, surrounding the prime minister's office and mounting roadblocks after vowing to topple the government unless it quits. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)

Fiji's embattled Prime Minister Laisenia
Qarase (Xinhua/Reuters File Photo)

The soldiers blocked the entry to Government House in the evening, turning away Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase from a planned meeting with Vice President Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi, sources told Xinhua.

A roadblock was set early Monday to a road and Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase was thus forced to fly by helicopter back into Suva after a local council meeting.

Qarase is believed to be at his Suva's residence. So far there are no reports of detention of ministers or military confrontation in the capital.

Earlier Monday Fiji soldiers loaded and moved out guns and ammunition at a police tactical response division headquarters near Suva.

At a news conference in the afternoon, Fiji's acting Police Commissioner Moses Driver said laws have been broken in the unlawful removal of arms from the Police Force.

But in a another news conference later, Fiji's army chief Commodore Bainimarama clarified that weapons and ammunition were removed from police "so they would not be used against the military."

Bainimarama declined to confirm this is the first step of a "peaceful transition" of the Government, which he has threatened when he claimed the Prime Minister had failed to meet a series of his demands by the deadline already passed on Friday.

The capital is quiet and stable with very few people on the street, sources told Xinhua, saying most stores and restaurants closed door earlier for the day.