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Updated: July 12, 2010 20:15 IST

Australia condemns Fiji move to expel top diplomat

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Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith. File photo: AP.
Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith. File photo: AP.

Foreign Minister Stephen Smith condemned the Fijian military regime’s surprise move on Monday to expel Australia’s top diplomat.

Mr. Smith said the military regime told Australia’s acting high commissioner in Fiji, Sarah Roberts, she would be declared persona non grata on Tuesday morning and given 24 hours to leave the country.

“It’s unjustified and unjustifiable and it’s deeply disappointing,” Mr. Smith said.

Fiji expelled Australia’s high commissioner last year, leaving Ms. Roberts as the main government contact with the regime.

But Mr. Smith said Australia would not retaliate as it was important Fiji had official representation in Australia to keep communications open with Commodore Frank Bainimarama’s military regime.

Mr. Smith said Fiji claimed the move was due to Australian opposition to Fiji chairing an upcoming meeting of Pacific nations.

But he said he believed it was more due to Australian protests over moves to cut Australian media ownership in Fiji.

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