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Commonwealth Suspends Fiji After Failed Efforts to Restore Democracy

The Commonwealth says it has suspended Fiji after the Pacific Island nation failed to meet its demands to begin restoring democracy.

Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma announced Fiji's suspension from the 53-nation group in a statement Tuesday.

The Commonwealth, comprised of the United Kingdom, its dependencies and many former British colonies, ruled in July that unless Fiji opened democracy talks, it would be cut off from all aid from the group.

The Commonwealth had called for Fiji to start the political dialogue to pave the way for democratic elections by October 2010.

Sharma said Tuesday that although Fiji's Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama sent him a letter re-affirming his commitment to the Commonwealth, his response did not meet the group's full conditions.

The action also formally suspends the island nation from all Commonwealth sporting events.

New Zealand's Prime Minister Murray McCully had said full suspension of the Pacific archipelago nation from the Commonwealth was imminent at some stage.

Fiji was already suspended from the Pacific Island Forum, a regional bloc of 16 nations and major trade partners, including the European Union, Australia and New Zealand.

Fiji's leader, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, took power in a 2006 coup.

He promised to restore democracy by 2009. But in May of this year, the government postponed the election until 2014.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.