31 Jan 2007

Australia distances itself from alleged Sogavare murder plot

4:09 pm on 31 January 2007

The Australian government has rejected as preposterous claims it may have been behind a plot to assassinate the Solomon Islands prime minister, Manasseh Sogavare.

A 61-year-old Australian Vietnam veteran, Bill Johnson, was yesterday charged in connection with the alleged plot.

A Solomons government statement says police are still hunting for four alleged co-conspirators of Mr Johnson.

An Australian official says Canberra would expect the allegations to be rigorously and fairly examined, innuendo to be dismissed and the facts established.

Mr Johnson's lawyer says the prosecution evidence is nothing more than drunken conversation.

Mr Sogavare has been involved in diplomatic spats with Australia and has threatened to oust the Australian component of RAMSI which entered the country in 2003 to restore law and order after years of unrest.