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Wednesday, June 14, 2000
Sporting bans unlikely to affect Fijian Olympians

 SYDNEY, Australia (AP) -- Proposed bans on Fijian sporting teams entering Australia were not likely to extend to Fiji's Olympic team, Australia's Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said Wednesday.

 New Zealand authorities have banned Fijian rugby union teams from competing in New Zealand in response to the coup crisis, where George Speight and armed supporters have held Fijian Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry and 30 other people hostage since May 19.

 Downer said Tuesday he was considering similar sanctions to those applied in neighboring New Zealand, adding that inviting Fijian sporting teams to Australia was "highly inappropriate."

 Speight and Fijian national rugby authorities on Wednesday condemned the sporting bans, which had prompted speculation of similar sanctions for about 10 Fijians preparing for the Sept. 15-Oct. 1 Sydney Olympics.

 But Australia's Foreign Ministry later backed down on the Olympic issue.

 "Minister Downer has not given any consideration to blocking any Olympic team," a spokesman for Downer said.

 Athletes who qualify for the Olympics were expected to receive Games accreditation and a special identification pass, which doubles as an entry visa for Australia leading to and during the Games.

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