New Zealand firm on Fiji sanctions

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SUVA May 13 – New Zealand emphasised that it would not ease sanctions barring Fijian players with military or government ties from travelling to the Rugby World Cup.The embargo, imposed following the 2006 military coup, will remain until there is evidence of substantial progress toward the return of democracy, Foreign Minister Murray McCully said on Friday.

McCully was responding to a demand from the new military head of the Fiji Rugby Union, Colonel Mosese Tikoitoga, for New Zealand to declare whether there would be a travel ban on Fijian players selected for the World Cup.

"I’m mystified as to why they think we need to spell out a clearer message — banned means banned," McCully said on the Fiji Village website.

"If you’re part of the military you’re not coming; if you’re part of the government, if you’re a regime appointee, you don’t get to come."

It is not known how many players will be affected, and the travel restrictions will also apply to the Fiji team travelling to New Zealand for a one-off Test against the All Blacks in July.

Tikoitoga said Fiji will seek a ruling from the International Rugby Board (IRB), but regardless of the outcome it will still send a team to the World Cup which starts in New Zealand on September 9.

"We’ll ask the IRB if this is the official announcement. They may have had an exchange with the NZ government if this is so. We can’t do any more but we will await official word from the IRB," he told the Fijilive website.

"NZ’s policy has stopped movement of our players in Fiji. It is unfortunate that NZ is host of the (World Cup) event which has thus prevented Fiji from sending its strongest and best team possible."

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