23 Oct 2006

Solomons hardens stance towards Australia ahead of Forum meeting

6:31 am on 23 October 2006

The Solomon Islands government is expressing outrage over the raid by police on the prime minister's office and is hardening its stance towards Australia as leaders gather in Fiji ahead of the annual meeting of the Pacific Islands Forum.

The prime minister, Manasseh Sogavare, says it was a very provocative action and totally unnecessary.

Mr Sogavare is believed to be supported in his concerns by Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu, with the Vanuatu prime minister, Ham Lini, saying Australia has been heavy handed in its dealings with Solomon Islands.

The leaders of the three countries have been holding discussions with the Fiji prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, and were understood to be pushing for an end to the Australian dominance of the Regional Assistance Mission in Solomon Islands, or RAMSI.

The Solomon Island's foreign minister, Patteson Oti, says changes are needed.

"We want to hear from the chair of the Forum. The chairman of the Forum is responsible for RAMSI. He must answer to Solomon Islands as to how RAMSI can be redirected. It's not Australia - Australia cannot unilaterally dictate to the region as to what RAMSI should be."