3 Mar 2006

PNG minister Somare steps aside amid fund abuse probe

4:32 pm on 3 March 2006

The son of Papua New Guinea's prime minister has stepped aside from his cabinet post as prosecutors weighed up whether to charge him with misusing public funds.

The national planning minister, Arthur Somare, is alleged to have spent 100,000 US dollars inappropriately that was meant for his electorate.

Mr Somare said in a statement he was not legally obliged to step aside, but he had so as not to bring the government, his office or his parliamentary party into disrepute while he was under investigation.

His ministerial responsibilities have been taken over by the forestry minister, Patrick Pruaitch.

Along with Mr Somare, the health minister, Melchior Pep, is also faced with allegations of financial misconduct.