22 Jan 2008

Solomons PM due in Canberra

2:08 pm on 22 January 2008

The Solomon Islands new Prime Minister Derek Sikua is due to touch down in Canberra today on his first visit to Australia since becoming prime minister.

Dr Sikua's appointment last month followed the ousting of Manasseh Sogavare in a no-confidence vote in parliament.

Australia's Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is currently in Western Australia and is due to meet Dr Sikua tomorrow to work towards repairing damaged relations between the two countries.

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 accuses of pursuing an Australian agenda.

Dr Sikua is expected to reaffirm the Solomons commitment to the RAMSI mission when he meets Mr Rudd.

On the eve of the visit, Australia's Foreign Minister announced visa restrictions would be lifted for Solomon Islands politicians so they can travel to, or through, Australia.

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