MELANESIAN LEADERS MEET DOWNER OVER SOLOMONS

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SYDNEY, Australia (ABC News Online, Oct. 6) – Australia has told top Melanesian officials that the behaviour of the Solomon Islands Government has been extraordinary and unwarranted.

The Melanesian delegation involved the heads of the foreign affairs departments of Fiji and Papua New Guinea and the director-general of Vanuatu's Prime Minister's Department.

They had come to Canberra to try to bridge the differences between Australia and Solomon Islands.

The Foreign Affairs Department in Canberra said the talks were not a mediation between Australia and the Solomons.

Australian officials used the meeting to attack the Solomons for what they described as the extraordinary and unwarranted expulsion of Australia's top diplomat from Honiara, Patrick Cole.

They criticised the Sogavare Government for trying to interfere in the charges against two Solomons MPs over the April riots.

They said Australia expects due process in its attempt to extradite the Solomons Attorney-General, Julian Moti, who is facing allegations of child sex offences.

Australia's Foreign Minister Alexander Downer says poor governance in the Solomon Islands could unravel the work of the regional mission in the Solomons.

Mr Downer says Solomon Islands was a failed state in 2003 before the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI).

"Governance has been an enormous problem in Solomon Islands and we have spent about $800 million so far, putting RAMSI in place, helping to provide security, helping with education, helping with health services and the like, in order to assist the ordinary people of Solomon Islands," Mr Downer said. "And we don't want to see any of that unravel because of poor governance."

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