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Thursday, September 14, 2006

Australia warns Solomon Islands of more punishment

By George Herming

The Australian government warns Solomon Islands of further restrictions in light of the current diplomatic stand-off between the two countries.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard warned in a strongly worded letter to his Solomon counter-part Manasseh Sogavare on Tuesday that Solomon Islands would receive more consequences for expelling Australian diplomat Patrick Cole.

Mr Cole was accused of secretly campaigning externally to block funding for the Commission of Inquiry into the violent Honiara riots in April.

Mr Sogavare declared Mr Cole “persona non grata” Tuesday this week, meaning he is no longer recognized by the Solomon Islands government as an official diplomat.

“This is an unfriendly and unwarranted act, all more regrettable given the commitment of the Australian government and people to assisting Solomon Islanders to recover from instability and the failure of institutions of governance in your country.

“The government of Australia fully supports the actions of Mr Cole who has simply been doing his job,” Mr Howard said.

He also warned of a review of the bilateral relationship between Solomon Islands and Australia.

“You action will obligue us to review our bilateral relationship and we will announce measures in due course.

“There will be consequences for you and your government as a result of this action,” Mr Howard warned.

In spite of the warning, the Solomon Islands government maintains its decision saying there’s no regret over it.

Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare bravely told two protesting envoys from Canberra that his government will not listen to what Mr Howard said.

“The Solomon Islands Government agreed not to agree on what Mr John Howard said in his letter,” Mr Sogavare.

Australia’s first reaction was a visa ban on all Solomon Islands politicians traveling through Australian airports

Source: Government Communications Unit

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