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Thursday, February 01, 2007

John Howard slams bounty claim for Sogavare's assassinator

The Australian Government has labelled as "preposterous" an allegation by police in the Solomon Islands that Canberra offered a $50,000 bounty for the assassination of Solomon Islands Prime Minister, Manasseh Sogavare.

A minister in a previous Solomons government said many locals suspected that 61-year-old Australian Vietnam War veteran, Bill Johnson charged with plotting to kill Mr Sogavare has been framed.

A former minister, Alfred Sasako, said there was much scepticism over the claim Bill Johnson intended to engage in political violence. "This is a guy who is known for saying anything under the influence of liquor," he said.

"I understand that in relation to this claimed plot he was having a few beers and it was a case of 'blah, blah, blah'. There are people going around collecting intelligence and then trying to sell information to get money. The feeling … is that they believe Johnson was framed on this."

Johnson's arrest comes amid deteriorating bilateral relations between Australia and the Solomons and tensions over Canberra's opposition to re-arming of local police.

The Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, yesterday denied that the Australian Government offered an assassination reward. "We're aware that he has been charged but did we try and get anybody to assassinate the Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands? Of course not," Mr Howard said.

Source: Sydney Morning Herald

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