7 Jul 2008

Nauru's former President, Rene Harris, praised for building stronger links with Australia

8:13 pm on 7 July 2008

Nauru's Minister of Foreign Affairs says the late Rene Harris was crucial to the country's renewed relationship with Australia.

Mr Harris was President at the time the so-called "Pacific Solution" began, allowing Australia to establish detention camps for asylum seekers on the island, in exchange for millions of dollars in aid.

Mr Harris, who was 61, died early on Saturday after a heart attack.

Dr Kieren Keke says, Australia is now Nauru's strongest partner and crucial to its economic recovery and that relationship can be credited to Rene Harris.

"In an ironic sort of way, I believe so. You know, at that time, the relationship between Nauru and Australia was very lukewarm, and that agreement to host the offshore processing centre, led to a much increased involvement of Australia with Nauru."

Dr Kieren Keke.