Banaban Voice

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ForumIlya Gridneff January 25, 2009

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd will fly to Papua New Guinea to attend the special Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) meeting to discuss Fiji's route back to democracy.

Mr Rudd had cancelled his travel plans after PNG Prime Minister Michael Somare shocked PIF members by announcing on Friday night he would defer Tuesday's meeting to February 10.

But late on Saturday the meeting was rescheduled for its original date after Niue, the forum's chair, overruled Port Moresby's decision to postpone it.

The meeting will discuss the fate of Fiji's PIF membership under the leadership of self-appointed interim prime minister Commodore Frank Bainimarama.

"The Australian PM and his team will be travelling to PNG on Tuesday for the meeting," said a spokeswoman from Mr Rudd's office.

Mr Rudd's cancelled trips to India and Switzerland were still off, she said.

PIF organisers have started preparations for the meetings with delegations from PIF's 16 countries arriving in Port Moresby in the next couple of days.

The team from Kiribati has already checked in, while Niue premier and PIF chairman Toke Talagi was due to fly in on Sunday and New Zealand Prime Minister John Key along with eight PIF delegations arrive on Monday night.

The one-day forum will focus on a Tongan representative giving a report and presentation on conditions in Fiji following a fact finding mission to the country late last year.

Australia and New Zealand, both vocal critics of Fiji's failure to restore democratic rule, voiced anger at the news Commodore Bainimarama would not be attending this meeting.

Fiji's membership of the PIF is one possible sanction up for discussion given Commodore Bainimarama's broken promises on a timetable to restore democracy following his December 2006 coup.

Commodore Bainimarama said he could not attend the meeting because he was needed to lead relief work after recent devastating floods in Fiji that killed at least 11 people.

He called for the meeting to be deferred.

A PNG prime minister's office source told AAP a group of leaders will travel to Fiji around February 14 to meet Commodore Bainimarama and discuss what outcomes were reached at the Port Moresby talks.

© 2009 AAP

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