'Pacific forum to suspend Fiji'

PERTH: Fiji will be suspended from the 16-nation Pacific Islands forum on Saturday after it showed "no intention of returning to democracy", Australia's foreign minister said.

A meeting of forum leaders in January said Fiji's military leader Voreqe Bainimarama -- who overthrew the elected government in a 2006 coup -- had until May 1 to call elections this year.

But Australia's Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said because Bainimarama had failed to meet the deadline, Fiji would be suspended from the forum after midnight Friday.

"The effect of the resolution passed unanimously ... is effective tomorrow, the first day after May 1," Smith told reporters in Perth.

"Fiji has shown no intention to return to democracy and on the contrary has torn up its constitution.

"The effect of that resolution will be Fiji is automatically suspended from the forums and the meeting of the Pacific Islands Forum itself," he added.

The suspension appeared all but certain after Fiji's military regime in April revoked the constitution, sacked the judiciary and gave itself up to five years to hold elections.

But a defiant Bainimarama reiterated his refusal to schedule polls before 2014 and said there was no need to suspend his country because no one was being killed in the streets.

"If it was up to me, we would remove Australia and New Zealand from the forum. They're putting undue pressure on the Pacific islands," Bainimarama said in an interview showed on Sky News.

He also indicated censorship of the Fijian media would continue for some time, because "we want this calm to continue for a while".

"If I don't muzzle the press, is it going to bring extra food on the table?" he said.

"That's the way things should happen in Fiji -- rugby back on the front page," added Bainimarama.

Fiji also faces being ostracised by the Commonwealth, which has said it would suspend Fiji by September if no progress is made towards restoring democracy.