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 Thursday, 9 January, 2003, 10:50 GMT
Nauru leadership in turmoil
Detention centre in Nauru
Nauru is host to refugees turned away by Australia
The president of the tiny Pacific island of Nauru has been ousted from power but refuses to accept defeat, officials said on Thursday.

President Rene Harris was replaced by former President Bernard Dowiyogo following a vote of no-confidence against him, the Australian and New Zealand foreign ministries said.

But Mr Harris is currently disputing the legality of his removal, according to Canberra and Wellington.

Australian officials said Mr Harris was ousted because of concerns over economic mismanagement, and his removal was not linked to his controversial policy of allowing Nauru to host refugees turned away by Australia.

There has been no official recognition of the new leadership by Australia, but a spokesman for Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer told the Associated Press news agency on condition of anonymity that Canberra would recognise Mr Dowiyogo.

"President Dowiyogo has just been sworn in and we're congratulating him," the spokesman said.

Economic woes

Opposition to Mr Harris' economic policies has reportedly been mounting since the defeat of his budget on New Year's Eve.

Some government workers have not been paid in months, the French news agency AFP said.

The 21-square kilometre (8-square mile) island, home to about 12,000 people, has only one main industry - phosphate mining - and that is near exhaustion.

Its budget deficit last year - $25 million - was estimated at nearly half its gross domestic product.

Nauru's economic difficulties have led it to accept hundreds of asylum seekers housed in Australian-financed camps on the island, in return for aid.

Mr Dowiyogo has already served as president six times.

He has also been voted out of office before - and has been replaced by Mr Harris. That ouster took place in March 2001, while he was recovering from heart surgery in Australia.

Nauru's next general election is expected in April.


Detention camps

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08 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
03 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
02 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
31 Mar 02 | Asia-Pacific
23 Jan 02 | Asia-Pacific
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