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Fiji set to appeal against exclusion

Fiji are to lodge an appeal against their exclusion from competing at the 2010 Commonwealth Games with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

Fiji are to lodge an appeal against their exclusion from competing at the 2010 Commonwealth Games with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). Athletes from the Pacific island nation have been banned from next year's Games in India after Commonwealth leaders, meeting in Trinidad and Tobago, upheld an their decision to exclude Fiji from the competition.

The Commonwealth suspended Fiji in September after the nation failed to meet a deadline for opening talks on a return to democracy. The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) revealed their decision in their final communique. "Heads expressed deep concern at the further deterioration of the situation in Fiji islands with regard to its adherence to fundamental Commonwealth values," they said in a statement.

"They affirmed that sporting ties under the Commonwealth names are inseparable from the values of the association." Vidya Lakhan, the president of the Fiji Association of Sports and National Olympic Committee (FASANOC), yesterday confirmed Fiji plan to appeal. "We again reiterate our position: we see CHOGM's stance in this matter as political interference in sports. We will therefore now take our case to Court of Arbitration for Sport," the statement read.

Lakhan had earlier said in Fiji's capital Suva that FASANOC's legal team thought they had a strong case. "We are of the firm belief that the Commonwealth Games Fed-eration cannot deny us participation purely for the reason that they do not like Fijian politics," he said. "We have for the past weeks been consulting our own lawyers getting interpretations and seeking legal views from other people. We are assured that we have a very, very strong case. So based on that we are going to the Court of Arbitration for Sport for the decision."

Fiji has been run by a military regime since the self-appointed prime minister, Frank Bainimarama, led an armed forces toppling of the elected government in a bloodless coup in December of 2006. Bainimarama's critics have called on him to hold fresh elections as soon as possible. He had promised an election this year but has since ruled out a vote until 2014. Fiji only picked up only a bronze medal in the rugby sevens at the last Commonwealth Games, in Melbourne in 2006, with their best performance coming in the 2002 Games in Manchester when they won a gold medal in judo through Nacanieli Qerewaqa, as well as winning a silver and a bronze medal.

If Fiji are banned from the Commonwealth Games their absence will be most keenly felt in the rugby sevens, a sport they traditionally excel in and in which they would be expected to at least contest for a medal. Since the sport was introduced in the 1998 competition in Malaysia, Fiji have been runners-up twice and finished third three years ago in Australia. @Email:sports@thenational.ae

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