13 Dec 2004

Relations between Australia and Vanuatu appear to improve with new leadership

7:45 am on 13 December 2004

A change in leadership in Vanuatu appears to have smoothed relations with Australia.

Australia's Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, has welcomed the appointment of Ham Lini as the new prime minister.

He takes over from Serge Vohor -- who had prompted warnings from Australia that it would cut off almost all aid to Vanuatu because of concerns over corruption and poor governance.

Last week, Mr Vohor and his minority government faced a vote of no-confidence for trying to establish diplomatic ties with Taiwan despite the objections of China and much of his own parliament.

The Australian Associated Press said Mr Downer made no mention of Mr Vohor in his statement.

But he said he hoped discussions with the new government would open the way for a substantial increase in aid.