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Last Updated: Monday, 18 September 2006, 06:46 GMT 07:46 UK
Solomons PM criticises Australia
Manasseh Sogavare (file photo)
Mr Sogavare became prime minister after riots in April
The prime minister of the Solomon Islands has accused Australia of "heavy-handed" interference in his country's domestic affairs.

Manasseh Sogavare said he feared a repeat of clashes earlier this year because an Australian-led security force sent to end unrest had failed.

His comments are the latest in an escalating row between the two countries over the April riots.

Australia wants the Honiara government to cancel an inquiry into the violence.

The government's critics fear the inquiry will be used to exonerate two pro-Sogavare lawmakers.

Mr Sogavare has refused, and Australia's top diplomat in Honiara, Patrick Cole, was expelled from the Solomons last week, accused of interfering in the riot investigation.

Canberra responded by threatening to restrict visa rights for Solomon politicians who wanted to travel to Australia.


In a nationally televised address, Mr Sogavare said the Australian-led security forces in the Solomons had not dealt properly with his country's underlying problems.

He said he was concerned by the "heavy-handed, legalistic approach" that foreign troops were taking to address the situation.

"Unless this trend is reversed now, we will be in danger of driving this country down the path of another conflict that could be more serious, " he said.

Australia has deployed security forces in the Solomons since 2003, when it was invited there by the government to restore order after the country came close to collapse.

The root of the latest disagreement between Australia and the Solomons is a police inquiry which Mr Sogavare has set up, to look into the April riots.

Critics accuse him of initiating the police investigation in order to clear two lawmaker allies, who were charged with inciting the riots.

The April violence erupted after an election won by the former deputy prime minister, Snyder Rini.

Thousands of anti-government protesters burned down buildings in the city's Chinese district, alleging that either China or Taiwan had paid lawmakers to vote for him.

Mr Rini resigned when several members of his government - including Mr Sogavare - defected to the opposition, and Mr Sogavare was elected prime minister.

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