Tiny Pacific state in crisis

A tiny South Pacific nation, Tuvalu, has resorted to emergency rule and its leadership under armed guard, sources on the capital atoll of Funafuti say.

The third smallest state on earth - after the Vatican and Nauru - has a population of just 10,400.

Sources say the country's solitary navy boat, Te Mataila, is now guarding the shoreline of the side-by-side residences of the Governor General Iakoba Itaeli and Prime Minister Willy Telavi.

A state of emergency has been declared and any gathering of 10 or more people prohibited.

There has been a march on Funafuti but so far there has been no violence, the source says.

Tensions are high however as people from the Nukufetau island community have demanded one of their members of parliament, Lotoala Metia, resign.

There has been a continuing power struggle in the 15 seat Parliament.

Last year, a large part of the New Zealand Defence Forces took part in a major exercise on Funafuti, designed to prepare the nation for tsunamis and other civil disasters.

The island nation is 1100km north of Fiji and has drawn the attention of environmentalists who fear it will disappear due to global warming.

Tuvalu makes much of its money from fishing and the sale of its internet domain suffix, dot TV.