4 Jul 2003

Australian foreign minister welcomes French involvement in Solomon Islands

10:31 am on 4 July 2003

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has placed himself at odds with the country's Prime Minister, saying French involvement in the Solomon Islands is welcome.

France said earlier this week it would look favourably on an invitation to help in the troubled islands.

But John Howard, citing his concern to avoid charges of neo-colonialism, says the Solomons crisis is a matter for the Pacific Forum, to which France does not belong.

But Mr Downer, however, says French help would be welcome.

He says discussion about the use of French military personnel being involved in a stabilisation force was at preliminary stages and that aid money would certainly be easy to welcome.