1 Dec 2009

Iran pays for Solomon Island students to fly to Cuba

3:37 pm on 1 December 2009

The Iranian government has paid the travel costs for 25 Solomon Islands students to fly to Cuba next week.

The payment was blocked last month by the ANZ Bank in Honiara, because of the bank's sanctions against transactions involving Iran and Cuba.

But the Solomon Star reports Iran has circumvented this by giving about 13,000 US dollars to the Solomon Islands high commission in Canberra so it could pay for the students' travel.

The High commissioner Victor Ngele earlier stated that the Australian government was helping to resolve the situation.

Last week, the Solomon Islands government defended its diplomatic ties with Iran.

That came after the Israeli ambassador to the Solomons criticised a 100,000 dollar payment from Iran to Honiara.

Israel's Foreign Ministry claims Iran is bribing small countries that are friendly to Israel to vote against the Jewish state in the United Nations.

50 other Solomon Islands medical students have been studying in Cuba for almost a year, and several Cuban doctors are now working in the Solomons.