Fiji kicks out Australia envoy ahead of Pacific meeting

Fiji map

Fiji's military rulers are set to expel Australia's acting high commissioner amid a long-running row.

Sarah Roberts has been told she will be served with a "persona non grata" notice on Tuesday and be given 24 hours to leave the country.

Canberra has strongly criticised Fiji's military rulers, who seized power in a 2006 coup and have since imposed a series of repressive measures.

The two sides expelled each other's most senior envoys late last year.

Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said the decision to expel Ms Roberts was "unjustified and unjustifiable".

But he promised not to dismiss Fiji's remaining senior diplomat in Australia.

"If I responded in kind, that would see Fiji unrepresented in Australia and would effectively see the end of our formal diplomatic contact," he said.

Summit wrangles

It is unclear why Fiji took the latest action, but Mr Smith said Suva was angry with Canberra because of disagreements over scheduled meetings of various Pacific island political groups.

Fiji was suspended from the main regional bloc, the Pacific Islands Forum, at the urging of Australia and New Zealand.

The forum is due to meet next month, but Fiji has convened a meeting of another smaller talking shop, the Melanesian Spearhead Group, next week in a move seen by analysts as an attempt to upstage the forum.

Canberra has angered Suva by lobbying against the Melanesian meeting.

Such spats have been going on since Cmdr Frank Bainimarama came to power in 2006.

Australia and New Zealand have urged Cmdr Bainimarama to return to civilian rule as soon as possible, but he has said elections will not be held before 2014.

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