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Ousted Fiji Leader Formally Resigns

December 21, 2000

SUVA, Fiji (AP) _ The president ousted in a May coup has formally resigned, adding to the political confusion that has wracked this island nation for months.

Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, a frail 80-year-old, released a statement Wednesday saying he retired effective from May 29, the last day he was in office before being ousted by Fiji’s military. He gave no reason for the decision.

The statement ended speculation he might return as president.

``Mara’s resignation, which was a surprise, throws more complications on the constitutional issues before us,″ Dr. Tupeni Baba, deputy prime minister and foreign minister in the administration toppled by the coup, told The Associated Press.

Coup leader George Speight and an armed gang raided Parliament on May 19 and ousted the government. That triggered a 56-day hostage standoff that ended when military leaders threw out Fiji’s multiracial constitution and installed a nationalist civilian government. The leaders who were in place before the coup have not returned to office.

Mara’s replacement, Ratu Josefa Iloilo, has carried out the largely ceremonial functions of the Fijian president since soon after the coup.

Baba said the ousted leaders would ask Iloilo to recall Parliament early next year so lawmakers could form a government of national unity. But the military-installed interim government has shown no willingness to step aside. It has said it will appeal a High Court ruling last month that declared it illegal and called on Mara to form a new government.

Speight and 14 followers remain in custody on a small island near Fiji’s capital, Suva. They all are charged with treason. A preliminary inquiry into their case will open in a Suva court on Jan. 3.

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