Solomons Swears in Lawyer Wanted on Child Sex Charges as Attorney General

A lawyer sought in Australia on child sex charges was sworn in Tuesday as the Solomon Islands' attorney general, sparking condemnation from Australian Prime Minister John Howard.

Julian Moti, an Australian who evaded extradition to his home country last October when he escaped custody in Papua New Guinea, is a close friend of Solomons' Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare.

Sogavare has repeatedly blocked Australia's efforts to have Moti return to face child sex charges arising from an incident in Vanuatu in 1997, accusing Canberra of seeking Moti's return for unspecified political reasons.

Governor General Nathaniel Waena swore Moti in as attorney general on Tuesday at a ceremony at Government House in the capital Honiara attended by Sogavare and his Cabinet.

In Sydney, Howard called Moti's appointment "quite extraordinary."

"It is a very provocative and insensitive thing for somebody who is wanted on a criminal charge in this country to be sworn in as the attorney general," Howard told reporters.