PORT VILA, Vanuatu — The government of Vanuatu on Monday announced a ban on visits by Australian warships and aircraft as relations between the two countries deteriorated over the South Pacific island nation's growing links with Libya.
Premier Walter Lini, in a statement, said the move reflects "extreme displeasure" over Australian intelligence activities against his nation, formerly the Anglo-French territory of New Hebrides.
Lini dismissed Australian concern over the Libyan connection as a "non-issue" but charged that Australian intelligence has been interfering in the domestic affairs of Vanuatu, a nation of more than 80 islands about the size of Connecticut.
Vanuatu established diplomatic relations with Libya last year, claiming that the act was part of its nonaligned policy.
Tripoli has yet to open a mission here, but Australian officials have expressed concern that Libya may use Vanuatu as a base to support dissident groups in the region, particularly in the French territory of New Caledonia.