8 May 2006

Solomons leader accuses Australian minister of serious interference in country's affairs

8:32 pm on 8 May 2006

There are further signs of deteriorating relations between Solomon Islands and Australia, with the new Solomons prime minister, Manasseh Sogavare, accusing the Australian foreign minister, Alexander Downer, of interfering in the country's affairs.

Mr Downer has strongly criticised Mr Sogavare for including in his cabinet two MPs who are facing criminal charges in connection with the riots in Honiara last month.

Mr Downer says the Australian government is concerned and disappointed at the appointments of Charles Dausabea as police minister and Nelson Ne'e as tourism minister, especially given the amount of money Australia has spent trying to restore stability to the Solomons.

The New Zealand prime minister, Helen Clark, has made similar criticism of Mr Sogavare's move, but he defends his actions saying the men are innocent until proven guilty.

He says the critical comments from Mr Downer not only fall totally outside the terms of the protocol on diplomatic relations but amount to a serious act of interference with the domestic affairs of Solomon Islands.