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Fijian leaders held hostage in Parliament

The military today surrounded Parliament, where insurgents were holding leaders of this South Pacific nation hostage.

Police and military leaders said they were not negotiating with the seven masked gunmen who stormed Parliament a day earlier, firing AK-47 rifles and seizing Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry, Cabinet ministers and other lawmakers. No injuries were reported.

Chaudhry is Fiji's first ethnic Indian prime minister. His year-old administration is dominated by Indo-Fijians, a fact that has angered some indigenous people.

Businessman George Speight, who was inside Parliament, said he had seized power on behalf of ethnic Fijians. He appointed an opposition lawmaker as interim prime minister, suspended the constitution and declared himself president.

The raid on Parliament coincided with a march through Suva by supporters of the nationalist Taukei Movement, which erupted into riots when news of the hostage-taking spread. Markets in Suva were torched, store windows shattered and shops looted. Police said 200 people were arrested.

"It is only Indian shops that have been damaged," said Simeli Koroi, a security guard. "It's an Indian government so Indian stores got destroyed."

President Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara declared a state of emergency, giving himself the power to command the military. He imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew and appealed to the hostage-takers to release the lawmakers.

Jahir Kahn, assistant commissioner for the police-military operation guarding the streets, said the rebels had no support among the military.

"You can say it's a coup or you can say it's a situation," Kahn said. "But right now as far as we're concerned (Mara) is still our president. He's declared a state of emergency and we are working directly for him."

UNREST IN PARAGUAY: In Paraguay, mutinous soldiers and police fired at the legislative building in Asuncion late Thursday from armored personnel carriers before surrendering. The government was back in full control Friday morning.

Officials did not say how many rebellious soldiers were arrested. The troops reportedly were sympathetic to former army Gen. Lino Cesar Oviedo, a fugitive wanted in last year's assassination of Vice President Luis Argana.