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Opposition leader: no confidence vote in Solomons premier deferred because of threats

Opposition leader: no confidence vote in Solomons premier deferred because of threats

The Solomon Islands' parliament on Friday deferred a vote on whether to oust Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare because some lawmakers had received threats and were too scared to attend, the opposition leader said.
Sogavare, who came to power after riots flared in April in response to the election of an unpopular prime minister, said the opposition postponed its no confidence motion because it knew it did not have enough support.
The action in the South Pacific nation's legislature capped a dramatic week, with a scandal involving child sex allegations against a top official and a widening rift between Sogavare and Australia, the regional power whose troops are keeping the peace in the Solomons.
Opposition leader Fed Fono had expected to be able to force Sogavare out when Parliament met Friday. But when the session opened, he asked that the no confidence vote be deferred for a week, without giving reasons.
Outside Parliament, he said that many lawmakers had agreed Sogavare should go, but that some hadn't turned up at the session.
"There have been a lot of threats and security risks," Fono told reporters.
Sogavare said this was an excuse.
"It is clear that the leader of the opposition would like to withdraw because obviously they do not have the power," he said. "We have the numbers now."
Security had been tightened throughout the capital, Honiara, amid fears of a repeat of the violence that razed the city's Chinatown district in April.
The rioting was fueled by unsubstantiated rumors that newly elected Prime Minister Snyder Rini had funded his campaign with money from Taiwan or China. Rini was ousted, bringing Sogavare to power as Australian police and soldiers restored order.
Two lawmakers who were Sogavare's supporters were jailed and charged with fomenting the riots, but the prime minister appointed them as ministers before backing down and removing them from Cabinet.
Sogavare's insistence on holding an inquiry into the riots has angered Canberra, which alleges it is designed to derail the criminal proceedings against the charged lawmakers.
The rift deepened when Sogavare last month forced the expulsion of Australia's Ambassador, then worsened when Canberra tried this week to arrest the man Sogavare announced as his top legal officer.
Julian Moti, whom Sogavare has appointed as attorney-general, was arrested in neighboring Papua New Guinea as he traveled home to take up the post. He's wanted in Australia on child sex charges.
But extradition proceedings to bring Moti to Australia were upset when Moti skipped bail and hid out in the Solomons' diplomatic mission in Papua New Guinea, whose Prime Minister Michael Somare overruled a court and said he should not be re-arrested.