7 Sep 2004

Australia and Vanuatu continue talks about police depolyment

3:49 pm on 7 September 2004

Talks are reported to be continuing between Australian officials and the Vanuatu government over a demand by the new government of Serge Vohor that Australia remove its small contingent of federal police out of the country.

Late last week Vanuatu's foreign minister, Barak Sope, wrote to the Australian government demanding that the two police liaison officers stationed in Port Vila should be called home.

Officials in the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed receipt of the letter which they said was now the subject of ongoing discussions between the two governments.

A spokesman for Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, said officials would be negotiating "very diligently".

Meanwhile, Mr Sope is facing a fresh charge and appealing his conviction three year ago on fraud charges.

Mr Sope was found guilty of illegally signing two government-backed letters of credit during his term as prime minister.

Mr Sope, has publicly blamed Australian federal police for the charges against him.