A top cabinet minister in Fiji's military regime has been allowed into New Zealand to attend a football meeting in Auckland.
Military-appointed Education minister Filipe Bole is attending an Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) ministerial meeting in Manukau today.
OFC general secretary Tai Nicholas says they are delighted that Bole could come "considering the travel restrictions that have been in place since the 2006 military coup.
"Sport can be used as a tool to bring unity and we are seeing that in practice with this youth and sports conference and sports ministers' meeting.
"We would like to thank the New Zealand Government for their role in allowing the Hon. Filipe Bole to attend," said Nicholas.
A spokesman for Foreign Minister Murray McCully said it is a regional meeting of sports ministers.
"Our policy on travel sanctions has always been that we consider applications on a case by case basis, and in situations where we feel it is beneficial to the region as a whole to allow Fiji to participate in a regional meeting being held in New Zealand, we reserve the right to waive the restrictions in place," the spokesman said.
The behind-closed-doors meeting which involves at least 10 ministers from across the Pacific will be hosted by OFC as part of the inaugural Pacific Youth and Sports Conference.
The conference has seen 800 young people from 17 countries take part this week.
Fiji's Football Association has hailed the meeting.
"We are very proud to have Filipe Bole invited to attend the conference in Manukau, New Zealand," Fiji FA head Sahu Khan said.
"I believe the minister's presence in New Zealand is a very good sign as sports bridge division.
"I think not only soccer but the all the sporting bodies should be proud of Bole's participation in New Zealand."
Michale Field, Stuff