15 Jan 2007

MSG countries critical of Australia's stance on Fiji

4:10 pm on 15 January 2007

The four Melanesian Spearhead Group countries have attacked Australia for its attempt to shut out Fiji troops from the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands after last month's coup.

Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Fiji met in Honiara at the weekend to show their support for Fiji's new military appointed interim administration.

The four countries hit out at Australia for dominating regional politics, particularly its dominance of the RAMSI mission, which is made up of Pacific Forum members.

Last month Australia said it would not fund Fiji's participation in the RAMSI mission because of the coup in Fiji.

The Solomon Islands foreign minister, Patteson Oti, attacked Australia for trying dominate its neighbours, saying RAMSI had mutated from a regional initiative into an Australian hegemony.

Mr Oti says RAMSI is a regional mission and Australia has no right to remove Fiji from it without consulting other regional members.

The chairman of the meeting, PNG's foreign minister, Paul Tiensten, says the four countries support the return of Fiji to the RAMSI mission under alternative funding.