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Fiji, New Zealand officials hold phone conversation amid diplomatic crisis
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15:30, December 16, 2008

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New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully on Tuesday spoke with Fiji's interim Prime Minister Commodore Frank Bainimarama on phone amid speculation that the Fiji interim government is about to expel New Zealand's acting high commissioner in Suva Caroline McDonald over Wellington's visa policies and travel bans.

McCully has declined comment about the discussions, but the New Zealand government has said it won't relax the restrictions, Radio New Zealand International reported.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said no agreement was reached during the talks, though there will be further dialogue between the two governments.

In Suva, the Fiji Prime Minister's Office said it will issue a statement on the matter at an appropriate time, the Fijilive online reported.

The Fiji interim government said through its travel bans, the New Zealand government is unfairly punishing innocent citizens who are not involved in any way in the country's political affairs.

The bans were imposed as so-called smart sanctions in response to the 2006 military coup -- a move similar to the decision in 2000 to refuse entry to those linked to Fiji's previous coup fronted by George Speight.

Those banned to transit through Australia and New Zealand can leave the South Pacific mainly via South Korea and Papua New Guinea.

In a related development, a New Zealand Television journalist was sent home from Fiji on Tuesday amid a row over the New Zealand government's refusal to grant a visa to the son of a senior Fijian official.

New Zealand Television One News reported that its Pacific Correspondent Barbara Dreaver had been taken into custody at Nadi airport Monday night, as she went through immigration shortly after her arrival.

Fiji Times editor Netani Rika said he understood Dreaver was now on a plane home from Fiji.


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