17 Feb 2007

Australia's PM rebuffs over to meet Solomon's PM

11:58 am on 17 February 2007

The Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, has rebuffed an offer to meet his Solomon Islands counterpart, saying the countries' foreign ministers should first attempt to repair damaged bilateral relations.

The Solomons government has asked Australia to consider crisis talks between Mr Howard and Manasseh Sogavare to resolve a series of disputes that have badly damaged diplomatic relations.

One of the contentious issues is Mr Sogavare's protection of Australian lawyer Julian Moti, who is wanted to face child sex charges in Australia.

But Mr Howard, who had been in Wellington for talks with New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark, says there are other avenues that should be explored first.

Meanwhile, Canberra has urged the Solomons to let Australia's new High Commissioner in Honiara, Peter Hooton, do his job.

Mr Sogavare has twice cancelled appointments with Mr Hooton to present his letter of introduction.