1 May 2006

Australian diplomat dressed down by Solomon Islands leader

8:47 pm on 1 May 2006

Australia's high commissioner in Solomon Islands has been accused of meddling in local politics, following the distribution of a diplomatically embarrassing email.

Patrick Cole was summoned to the caretaker prime minister Snyder Rini's office today and asked to explain the email from an Australian official which suggests he tried to influence the choice of prime minister last month.

The email was sent by Mick Shannon, an Australian with the Regional Assistance Mission's finance team - he has since been sent home.

The prime minister told reporters today the email proves Mr Cole is interfering with domestic affairs.

Mr Rini was forced to resign last week after he lost substantial support in the wake of the looting and arson of Honiara's Chinatown.

He also drew parallels between the accusations of corruption levelled at his government and Canberra being embroiled in the Iraq wheat scandal.

Mr Rini says Australia branded him and his colleagues as corrupt but his government didn't call the Australian politicians corrupt.

He also complained to Mr Cole and the New Zealand high commissioner about being snubbed when Australian justice minister Chris Ellison and New Zealand defence minister, Phil Goff, visited Honiara last week.