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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 June, 2004, 12:48 GMT 13:48 UK
Nauru gets new leader
By Phil Mercer
BBC, Sydney

Asylum seekers on Nauru
Australia has housed asylum seekers on Nauru since 2001
The tiny South Pacific island of Nauru has a new president, Ludwig Scotty.

He was appointed after a motion of no confidence unseated the veteran leader Rene Harris.

Following a dramatic day in parliament, a key ally of Mr Harris defected to the opposition, bringing to an end his fourth term as leader.

It is the sixteenth time in the past decade that the world's smallest independent republic has appointed a new head of state.

Mr Harris has said he fears his replacement, Mr Scotty, will try to close the controversial camp for asylum seekers which is financed by Australia.

The tiny island, with a population of around 13,000, has been in chaos for years.

A series of spectacularly unsuccessful business ventures have failed to offset the sharp decline in reserves of phosphate.

Deep divisions among Nauru's 18 members of parliament over how to sort out these financial problems have paralysed the political process.

In April, four MPs were charged with sedition, riotous behaviour and assaulting police during a protest against the former president.

They tried to stop Mr Harris leaving the country to negotiate a deal to service the nation's crippling debt.

Three of the four parliamentarians now hold cabinet positions in the new administration and the charges against them are expected to be dropped.

Despite the concerns of the outgoing president, Australia's foreign minister Alexander Downer said the change of government would not affect Nauru's agreement to hold asylum seekers under Australia's so-called Pacific Solution.

Three years ago Nauru tried to ease its financial troubles by allowing Australia to establish an offshore detention centre in return for aid.

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17 Jul 03  |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: Nauru
31 Jan 03  |  Country profiles
Timeline: Nauru
18 Feb 03  |  Asia-Pacific

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