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Fiji rulers on track to pick government

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SUVA, Fiji (Reuters) — Fiji's military said on Sunday it was on track to recruit a multiracial interim civilian government by Wednesday, and one newspaper said an indigenous Fijian banker, Laisenia Qarase, was to be prime minister.

Fiji's Daily Post quoted the military as saying that Qarase, chief executive of the Merchant Bank of Fiji, was to be premier, but a military spokesman said no such decision had yet been taken.

"It's all speculation. No one has been named yet," the spokesman told Reuters.

The newspaper report came more than six weeks after armed rebels seized the parliamentary complex in Suva, taking ethnic Indian prime minister Mahendra Chaudhry and his multi-racial coalition hostage in a bid to end Indian political power.

The military declared martial law on the southwest Pacific nation on May 29 and has said it planned to retain executive authority over the interim civilian government for up to two years before general elections.

The Daily Post report said army head of state Commodore Frank Bainimarama was expected to swear in Qarase either later on Monday or Tuesday, "At the latest Tuesday," it quoted the military as saying.

The military has denied a media report that the nation's hostage crisis had made some candidates too frightened to serve as ministers.

"I wouldn't term it too frightened . . .There are some people who naturally would not want to serve in an administration in a time of crisis like this," military spokesman Lt. Col. Filipo Tarakinikini said.

The rebels have refused to release the hostages until a civilian government comprised with a majority of indigenous Fijians is established.

Tarakinikini said the new civilian administration would contain some ethnic Indian Fijians.