4 Oct 2005

PNG prime minister delays visit to Australia

11:23 am on 4 October 2005

Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister, Sir Michael Somare, has deferred a three-day visit to Australia because of an infected ankle.

His media office says the Prime Minister's medical condition meant he would be unable to inspect a guard of honour or stand for prolonged periods.

Sir Michael was supposed to hold top level tallks with Australian Prime Minister John Howard as well as attend a function in Brisbane.

Relations between the two countries were soured this year by the collapse of Canberra's huge police aid programme to PNG and by Sir Michael being forced through a security check at Brisbane Airport.

Professor Allan Patience of the University of PNG says there are hopes that a more mature relationship can be established when the talks take place.

"Both Howard and Alexander Downer have been fairly blunt in their comments on Papua New Guinea as a potentially fragile if not failing state. They have talked a lot about corruption in the leadership and I think that Sir Michael has taken this to heart and he would like a bit more respect and understanding than Canberra has been showing in recent years."