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Military Stages Coup in Fiji

Fiji's military has taken control of the country from the democratically elected government. This is fourth coup in nearly 20 years in the South Pacific island nation. VOA's Heda Bayron has more from our Asia News Center in Hong Kong.

Fiji military chief Commodore Frank Bainimarama declared on national television Tuesday he is now in charge.

"As of six o'clock this evening, the military has taken over the government, has executive authority and the running of the country," he said.

Bainimarama says he has assumed the powers of president - with the authority to dismiss Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase and hold him under house arrest.

For weeks, Bainimarama has threatened a coup against Mr. Qarase - for alleged corruption and plans to grant amnesty to coup leaders who overthrew Fiji's first-ever ethnic Indian prime minister six years ago.

Neighboring New Zealand cut defense ties with the Fijian military Tuesday. Australia also condemned the military action but refused Mr. Qarase's request to send troops to prevent the coup.