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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Australia High Commissioner to SI will not present credentials until diplomatic strains are resolved

Australia's High Commissioner designate to Solomon Islands, Peter Hooton will not present his letter of introduction to the government until both Canberra and Honiara have sorted out their diplomatic differences.

Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare told Parliament his government wants to sort out the underlying issues that have strained the two countries relationship before Mr Hooton could present his letters of introduction to the government.

Mr Sogavare said government does not have any problems with the High Commissioner designate Mr Hooton nor his predecessor Patrick Cole. He said the issue is very much with Australia's Prime Minister John Howard and his Minister for Foreign Affairs, Alexander Downer.

Mr Sogavare said his government is taking steps to arrange a face to face meeting between himself and Mr Howard.

Mr Sogavare however said it took two months for the Solomon Islands High Commissioner to Australia Victor Ngele to present his letters of introduction to Canberra.

The Prime Minister was answering a question in Parliament on why Mr Hooton had not yet presented his letters of introduction to the government.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister denies the problems between Honiara and Canberra are political. He told Parliament the issues of contention between the two countries are diplomatic issues. He says it would go against international norms and conventions for Canberra to involve in Solomon Islands politics and vice versa.

The Prime Minister also denied any knowledge of a withdrawal of Australian funding towards the maintenance of roads on Malaita under the Community Sector Program. Mr Sogavare was asked by Opposition Leader Fred Fono in Parliament if he was aware of such.

But the Prime Minister said if Australia's parallel government in Solomon Islands had communicated that to the Parliamentary Opposition, then it was news to him.

Source: SIBC

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