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Fiji chief has "taken leave of senses" - N.Zealand

Written by: Staff
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LONDON, Dec 5 (Reuters) New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark accused the military leader of a coup in Fiji today of taking ''complete leave of his senses'' in removing the country's prime minister and dissolving parliament.

Clark told BBC radio that Commander Frank Bainimarama -- who assumed power on Tuesday -- had effectively ''ripped up the country's constitution and thrown it out the window''.

Bainimarama had repeatedly threatened to topple Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase's government, which won a second five-year term in May.

''He appears to have taken complete leave of his senses and the power has certainly gone to his head,'' Clark said.

She said recent talks to try to resolve the power struggle between Bainimarama and Qarase had proved fruitless because the military chief had refused to shift his position.

''He has proved completely deaf to any reasoning or any attempt to get a proper dialogue,'' Clark said.

''The international community should be communicating its support for the democratic process in Fiji ... and (urging) the commander to back off before he completely destroys his country and his peoples' prospects.'' Fiji's growing political crisis has alarmed South Pacific neighbours, with Australia sending three warships in case it needed to evacuate holidaying nationals. Bainimarama has warned that his soldiers will oppose any foreign intervention.

REUTERS SHB PM1526

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