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Tuesday, July 18, 2000
Olympics exempt from Fiji sporting bans

  CANBERRA, Australia (AP) -- Fijian athletes and officials traveling to Australia for the Sept. 15-Oct. 1 Olympics will be immune from general sporting sanctions imposed on Fiji by Australia's federal government.

  Australia's Foreign Affairs minister Alexander Downer on Tuesday announced a raft of economic, political and sporting sanctions against Fiji in the wake of the "unacceptable outcome of the coup."

  "We do not wish to have Fiji national sporting teams play in Australia," he said. "The government will, however, naturally honor its general obligation to (Sydney organizers) to allow the entry of Fiji Olympic family members (i.e. athletes and officials) for the Sydney Olympics."

  The Fijian Olympic team is expected to include about nine athletes.

  Downer said he would be asking the British government to urge organizers of the Rugby League World Cup, being hosted in Britain later this year, to exclude Fiji.

  International Olympic Committee vice president Kevan Gosper visited Fiji earlier this month to assure athletes that their Olympic aspirations would not be ruined by the political turmoil in the tiny Pacific nation.

  A Fijian elected government headed by ethnic Indians was overthrown by a group of gunmen led by George Speight on May 19 and 27 people were hold hostage in the national parliament for about two months.

  The hostages have been released but the Australian government has described the process of appointing an interim government as undemocratic.

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