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Thursday, September 21, 2006

Australian govt relaxed on new Solomons diplomat

The Australian government will send a new high commissioner to the Solomon Islands only when it suits them, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer says.

Australia's relationship with the Solomons has been thrown into turmoil after the Pacific nation decided to expel Patrick Cole - who arrived back in Australia on Tuesday - accusing him of meddling in domestic politics.

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, who, like Mr Downer, is in New York for a United Nations general assembly meeting, has requested a meeting with Australia's foreign minister.

Mr Downer is agreeable to a meeting but plans to make it clear to Mr Sogavare that Australia is unhappy with the treatment meted out to Mr Cole.

"We're very displeased about the way our high commissioner is being treated," he told reporters in New York.

"It would be wrong for Australia not to say so and not to express its outrage about a senior official, a very able official, being treated in that sort of way.

"I think he's been treated very badly, very shabbily by the Solomon Islands government."

Mr Downer said there was nothing more Australia could do about Mr Cole's expulsion but it would not necessarily be sending a replacement soon.

"He's left and there's nothing more we can do about that," he said.

"At some stage in the future we'll send another high commissioner. When it suits us."

Source: The Age

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