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Clark snubbed, Bainimarama welcomed

Published: 7:11AM Tuesday October 16, 2007 Source: Newstalk ZB

Guests at the Pacific Forum in Tonga on Tuesday were left wondering why New Zealand's Prime Minister was the only leader not to be announced when she arrived.

Fiji's self-appointed leader, Commodore Frank Bainimarama was, however, given a hero's welcome.

When asked why this may have been the case, Clark replied she "wouldn't have the slightest idea".

Australia's foreign minister Alexander Downer gave a frosty welcome of his own, ignoring Commodore Bainimarama all together.

But despite this, the Fiji delegation has high hopes.

"We are looking forward to dialogue especially with Australia and New Zealand." says Bainimarama.

However, both New Zealand and Australia will not be inviting him to chat any time soon.

"No, we've been quite clear, there won't be a bilateral meeting." says Clark of Bainimarama's remarks.

It is not only Fiji's democracy that is the focus of regional concern.

Tonga's pro-democracy movement has also been out in force making a point.

Protesters wanted to march into town where the Pacific Island leaders are meeting, but military and police check points have stopped them from doing so.

Security surrounding the forum has been tight with New Zealand police checking different venues for explosives.

However, the most explosive action is expected to be around the meeting table.

"We hope there will be a lot of understanding than what we have right now." says Bainimarama

But he should not count on it, unless he sets Fiji an election date.

"New Zealand, like the Commonwealth are poised to support the process where we can see Fiji is putting steps in place to get there" says Clark.

Until that time it is clear the Pacific Islands forum rift will continue.

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