CANBERRA - Australian foreign minister Bob Carr is calling on Vanuatu to reconsider its decision to expel 12 Australian police officers, amid a worsening diplomatic row.
The Australian Federal Police officers left the country on Thursrday, a day after Vanuatu's government gave them just 24 hours to get out or face arrest.
The threat came two weeks after the AFP arrested a senior Vanuatu official, Clarence Marae, while he was passing through Sydney Airport with the nation's prime minister, Sato Kilman, en route to Israel.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it was disappointed Vanuatu decided to expel the officers in "retaliation" for Marae's arrest.
"We regret that it was necessary to make the arrest during Prime Minister Kilman's transit," a DFAT spokesman said yesterday.
Carr said he hoped the AFP officers ù stationed in Vanuatu to help train and support the local force ù would be allowed to return. "I'd be very happy if Vanuatu, regarded by us as a close friend, would find it possible to reconsider this decision," he told the ABC.
"I think it's in their interests. Our assistance to their police force has been substantial."