24 Jan 2008

Solomon Islands leader holds talks with Australia's prime minister

11:14 am on 24 January 2008

The new Solomon Islands Prime Minister Derek Sikua has met his Australian counterpart, Kevin Rudd for talks in Canberra.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports Mr Rudd as saying the meeting was an opportunity for the two countries to re-establish a close and cooperative relationship.

Relations between the two countries plummeted under the recently ousted Solomons Prime Minister, Manasseh Sogavare, who was critical of the Australian influence on the Regional Assistance Mission to his country.

The pair discussed Australian aid to the Solomons and how it could be best used to help Dr Sikua achieve reforms in health, the public service and vocation training.

The Australian leader also accepted an invitation to visit the Solomons later this year.

In a statement released before the meeting, Dr Sikua's office said he was expected to raise his country's desire for a labour scheme, which would allow Pacific workers to take unfilled jobs in Australia.

Meanwhile, Reuters reports that during their private talks Dr Sikua offered to help Australia mend fences with neighbouring Papua New Guinea, Fiji and Vanuatu.

The new prime minister of Solomon Islands is due arrive in New Zealand today.