WELLINGTON, Jan. 28 (Xinhua) -- Fiji on Tuesday rejected the need for further sanctions, saying the country was not in crisis and was determined to complete electoral reform before holding elections.
The Pacific Islands Forum leaders special meeting, held in Papua New Guinea on Tuesday, gave Fiji a deadline of May 1 to announce an election date. Elections must be held by the end of the year.
If the Fiji interim government does not meet the terms, its leader, ministers and officials will be suspended from all meetings of the forum, the Pacific leaders said in a statement.
Fiji will also be prevented from receiving benefits that come from belonging to the forum, including new financial aid.
Fiji's interim attorney general Aiyaz Saiyed Khaiyum, a special envoy of interim Prime Minister Commodore Frank Bainimarama, put Fiji's case to the leaders in Port Moresby.
Saiyed Khaiyum on Tuesday questioned the forum's right to impose further sanctions and said electoral reform rather than timelines are his country's priority.
"There is no crisis in Fiji at the moment," he said. "You have a government in place that's been held to be legally and validly appointed by His Excellency our president (by) a three member panel of the High Court. So we do not understand what the crisis is," Radio New Zealand quoted him as saying.
Khaiyum said he spoke to Bainimarama after the meeting. Fiji was determined to complete electoral reform before holding elections, he said.
He told reporters democracy was about more than elections and Fiji did not have universal suffrage. The country wanted "long-term and sustainable" democracy which "seems lost on some people," Radio New Zealand reported on Wednesday.
He said the new Presidential Political Dialogue Forum would look at reform issues and once an electoral system was decided on elections would take a further 12 to 15 months.
Khaiyum disputed the forum's right to take steps against Fiji which only allowed action if there was a crisis. Since Fiji's president ruled the interim administration was valid, backed up by a high court ruling, there was no crisis, he said.
He accused Australia and New Zealand of hurting innocent citizens through sanctions -- especially a ban on travel for officials and government figures.