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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted at 9:31 a.m., Monday, April 2, 2007

Fiji soldiers withdraw from street checkpoints

Associated Press

SUVA, Fiji — Fiji's military has handed control of street checkpoints to police today, nearly four months after the armed forces staged a bloodless coup on Dec. 5, a spokesman said today.

A nationwide state of emergency nevertheless remains in force, military spokesman Maj. Neumi Leweni said.

The move "indicates an improvement in the security situation," Leweni said.

"It was always our plan to slowly withdraw soldiers from the checkpoints," he said, adding that all military personnel had returned to camp.

Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said the handover only came after security assessments by military agencies and the Fiji Home Affairs Ministry.

The U.S. Embassy in the Fiji capital, Suva, meanwhile advised the nation's armed forces chief that his entry visa to the United States has been revoked.

Military commander and interim prime minister, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, confirmed this in an informal speech to officers today.

Bainimarama said he received a letter from Suva-based U.S. Ambassador Larry Dinger informing him of the cancellation, and asking that Bainimarama make his passport available to the embassy.

Bainimarama said he had challenged the ambassador to "come and get (the) passport" and "prepare his running shoes."

Bainimarama drew international condemnation for ousting the elected government of Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase on Dec. 5, shutting the nation's parliament and imposing a state of emergency.