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edit Australasian Press Association — 03.MAR.2008 — First session of Tokelauan Provisional Government produces harsh words, flag

FAKAOFO, TOKELAU — The mood on Tokelau's chief atoll remained tense Tuesday as the island's provisional council met for the first time, despite strongly worded protests from the island group's ruling nation, Fiji.

The provisional council, chosen as a temporary compromise by the islands' deadlocked Tulafono, or constitutional convention, passed its first acts for consideration by the Fijian legislature, which still has final say in the islands until Tokelau becomes fully independent. The acts dealt with essential issues such as offshore ferry service and postal delivery.

It remains to be seen how the Fijian legislature will deal with this legislation. A spokesman for Fiji's Colonial Ministry repeated the government's previous statements denouncing the Tokelauan council as "illegal" and "careless". The spokesman would not comment on the possible use of force to bring the islands into compliance. Aotearoan troops stationed on Fakaofo have refused to intervene, stating that their mandate is only to keep the peace.

The council also unfurled a new flag reflecting their wishes for Tokelau's new status as an autonomous region temporarily dependent on Fiji. A variation on Tokelau's flag as a colony of Aotearoa and Kemr in the mid-XXth century, the flag depicts a palm tree and four green stars on a yellow field, representing Tokelau's four atolls. A small flag of Fiji sits in the upper left canton.

The outside world has been slow to respond to the growing tensions in this tiny corner of the Pacific. Oceania's two smallest countries, Henua and Nauru, have issued statements supporting self-determination for the Tokelauans. More significant will be the reactions of the region's great powers, including Japan and the Australasian states.

(To be added to Source: 29505

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