VANUATU’S SOPE ACCUSES AUSTRALIAN POLICE OF TAPPING PHONE

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VANUATU’S SOPE ACCUSES AUSTRALIAN POLICE OF TAPPING PHONE

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (April 25, 2001 - Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat)---Former Prime Minister Barak Sope is accusing Australian police in Vanuatu of tapping his telephone.

Sope, who was toppled in a vote of no confidence earlier this month, said 10 Australian federal police are in the country to investigate drug smuggling.

"The drugs are just a camouflage," he said. "Why do you need 10 people to investigate this? We feel they’re here to tap telephones of important politicians."

Sope said this is an example of Australia interfering in Vanuatu's internal affairs.

"We decided to write a letter to the Australian High Commissioner to say there are still federal police in Vanuatu," he said.

He said there will be demonstrations if the police are not withdrawn within a week.

Meanwhile, the current Prime Minister, Edward Natapei, thanked the Australian government for assisting Vanuatu’s police.

He said recent seizures of drugs in neighboring countries demonstrate a good regional partnership.

For additional reports from Radio Australia/Pacific Beat, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Radio Australia/Pacific Beat.

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