23 Jan 2008

Solomon Islands prime minister to meet Australian prime minister

11:22 am on 23 January 2008

The new Solomons Islands Prime Minister Derek Sikua will meet Kevin Rudd today as the two nations begin repairing soured diplomatic ties.

Dr Sikua touched down in Canberra yesterday and will meet the prime minister today , where they will discuss a range of issues including the Australian-led law and order mission to the Solomons.

Ahead of Dr Sikua's arrival, the Rudd government lifted visa restrictions on Solomon's MPs travelling to, or through, Australia.

The Howard government initiated the clampdown in response to a decision by Dr Sikua's predecessor, Manasseh Sogavare, to expel Australia's then high commissioner to the Solomons, Patrick Cole.

Mr Cole was expelled in September 2006 after the then government declared him persona non-grata, accusing him of meddling in local politics by talking to opposition parties.

Mr Sogavare had been embroiled in a series of disputes with Canberra over the Australian-led Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands or RAMSI, which he accused of pursuing an Australian agenda.

Dr Sikua became prime minister last month following the ousting of his controversial predecessor in a no-confidence vote in parliament.