18 Sep 2003

Australian foreign minister mending bridges during PNG visit

9:37 am on 18 September 2003

The Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has stressed the need to let bygones be bygones after meeting with his Papua new Guinea counterpart Sir Rabbie Namaliu.

Mr Downer is in Port Moresby for a two-day visit to meet Sir Rabbie and PNG Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare, who have accused Australia of behaving like a colonial power over the aid issue.

Mr Downer, who described the talks as a good start after what he described as the "robust rhetoric" of recent weeks, said both countries want to work towards good outcomes.

He said together the two countries can improve the efficacy of Australian aid to PNG, adding that PNG is very lucky to have Australian assistance available to it.

Declining to go ito specific issues of review relating to the aid program, Mr Downer agreed with Sir Michael's message to the nation on Independence Day that PNG should strive to be economically independent.