22 Sep 2006

Pacific leader says New Zealand minister could help resolve Australian/Solomons row

1:44 pm on 22 September 2006

Samoa's Prime Minister, Tuila'epa Sailele, says New Zealand's foreign minister should mediate in the stoush between Australia and Solomon Islands.

Tuila'epa made the comment as diplomatic tensions between the two countries remain high after the expulsion of Australia's top diplomat from Honiara.

The Australian high commissioner, Patrick Cole, was expelled by the Solomon Islands prime minister, Manasseh Sogavare, who accused him of interfering in his country's domestic affairs.

Central to the dispute are the riots in April, which are alleged to have been instigated and fuelled by two MPs who are associates of the prime minister.

Mr Sogavare says he has asked New Zealand's foreign minister, Winston Peters, to mediate in the dispute. But a spokesperson for Mr Peters says he has not agreed to the request.

Tuila'epa - who is attending the United Nations General Assemby in New York this week - says any assistance by New Zealand would be welcome.

"That would be a good thing as it also falls in line with foreign policies and responsibilities of foreign ministers."

Tuila'epa would not be drawn on his own views of the diplomatic stand-off.