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Fiji Rebels Turn In Weapons; New Government Takes Shape

July 15, 2000|Associated Press

SUVA, Fiji — The rebels who ousted this Pacific nation's elected leadership turned in their weapons Friday with a Fijian flourish: swapping whale's teeth and asking for forgiveness a day after they ended an 8-week-old hostage crisis.

Businessman George Speight and his rebels--all ethnic Fijians--stormed Parliament on May 19 and seized dozens of members of the government.

Saying the nation's large ethnic Indian minority had too much power, they managed to get the multiracial constitution scrapped and ousted Mahendra Chaudhry, Fiji's first ethnic Indian prime minister.

Having won those concessions--along with immunity--the rebels freed their remaining 18 hostages Thursday. That cleared the way for the Great Council of Chiefs to begin appointing government officials.

The rebels were maintaining pressure on the chiefs Friday, issuing thinly veiled threats that the civil disturbances that racked the country in the last week could continue.

"If we get into power, we will call off the dogs," rebel spokesman Jo Nata told Australian radio.

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