15 Sep 2004

Australian Federal police leave Vanuatu but assured they can return

5:59 pm on 15 September 2004

Two Australian Federal Police liaison staff have left Vanuatu for consultations in Canberra, but the Australian High Commission in Port Vila says they have been assured the officers can return.

The departure comes after the Foreign Minister Barak Sope ordered the officers out of Vanuatu, because he claimed they were running an independent office and their presence was not covered by the bilateral defence agreement.

The officers were due to leave today(wed) and had a farewell on Monday, but the Prime Minister had since reversed the expulsion.

An official at the High Commission says the two officers flew to Canberra today but purely for consultations and they will be back.

He says their office accommodation is likely to be brought back within the Australian compound and an agreement covering their deployment will be negotiated.