7 Jul 2008

Former President of Nauru Rene Harris dies

5:52 am on 7 July 2008

A former president of Nauru, Rene Harris, who helped broker the controversial "Pacific Solution" to deal with asylum seekers bound for Australia, has died at the age of 61.

The Nauru government said Mr Harris, the country's longest-serving politician suffered a heart attack on Friday afternoon and passed away over the weekend.

A state funeral was held within hours of his death.

The Foreign Minister, Kieren Keke, said although Mr Harris was always unorthodox and controversial, there was no denying Nauru had lost one of its most memorable orators and toughest politicians.

Mr Harris served continuously in the 18-member Nauru parliament for 31 years, until he lost his seat in general elections last April.

His political career included four years as president at various times between 1999 and 2004.