SOLOMONS AMBASSADOR RECALLED OVER IRAN FLAP

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Solomons voted in support of Iran criticism of Israel

By Ednal Palmer HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star,Oct. 1, 2010) – Solomon Islands Ambassador Collin Beck is being recalled [from New York] for what insiders described as a "diplomatic blunder" following the last government's decision to get Iran funding for SI medical students studying in Cuba.

Insiders say the decision to recall Mr Beck was probably a result of Israel’s influence.

Attempts to confirm this with the Minister of Foreign Affairs were unsuccessful as he is attending the UN general assembly meeting in New York, US.

The past government did not only acquire funding from Iran for students’ airfares but went on to vote in support of the Goldstone Report, which was highly critical of Israel’s assault on Gaza in 2008.

This had prompted Israel to send Deputy Ambassador Gili Sharir, who was also the Deputy Director of the Pacific Department, within Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to the Solomon Islands purposely to get an explanation from the Solomon Islands' Government on why it was the only Oceania country that voted in support of the Goldstone Report.

The then Solomon Islands government’s defence was "Solomon Islands is a sovereign country, and it has the right to make its own decisions".

The past government earlier reached an agreement with Iran to form closer ties and particularly for Solomon Islands to access Iran's expertise in civil engineering.

Iran then agreed to pay for a batch of 25 medical students’ airfares last year, and injected a funding of US$100, 000.

The ANZ bank then refused to process the funds’ transfer from Iran to Solomon Islands, on grounds it was complying with United Nations trade sanctions imposed on Iran.

The issue has got the international community on their toes as the Dr Derek Sikua led government strike the deal with Iran.

The Iranians were approached in New York by the Coalition for National Unity and Rural Advancement [CNURA] government after it was having difficulties meeting its obligation under the scholarship arrangement in Cuba.

Tehran came through with its pledge following a visit to Iran after the UN meeting, by former Foreign Minister, William Haomae.

It is believed the return of the money to Iran was part of the US-led efforts to isolate Iran as punishment for Tehran’s stance on nuclear development.

Australia fears that Iranian funding could influence Solomon Islands’ vote on additional sanctions being considered against Iran.

Sources said Mr Beck is expected back after the UN general assembly meeting which is being attended by the Foreign Affairs Minister Peter Shanel.

Solomon Islands’ office in New York is just a floor under Israel’s; therefore it is believed Israel knows everything that is going on under their floor.

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