Pacific leaders on Tuesday said they were encouraged by moves taken by the military-led government in Fiji to return the island nation to a parliamentary democracy with elections by September 2014.

New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully released a statement from the Pacific Islands Forum Ministerial Contact Group (MCG), which concluded a two-day visit to Fiji on Tuesday, after meeting politicians, and civil society and union representatives.

The statement said the ministers gained a sense that Fiji was a country in transition, moving to put in place processes required for elections, which would take place by September 2014.

The ministers had also received assurances that the elections would be free and fair and no parliamentary seats would be reserved for the military.

The international community would closely watch the public consultation process leading to the establishment of a new constitution, it said.

If the process included freedom of association, freedom of speech and freedom for media, then ministers would consider recommending steps to allow Fiji to participate in some forum meetings.

Mr. McCully represents the forum chair New Zealand. The MCG comprised ministers from New Zealand, Australia, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

Fiji has been subject to Pacific-wide sanctions after a military-led coup in 2006.

Fiji's new constitution is expected to be adopted in March 2013.

In January, the New Zealand welcomed the lifting of emergency regulations, which Fiji government had used to rule since 2009.

Keywords: Fiji polls

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