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Nauru yet to be approached by Australian gov't over asylum seeker issues

07-14-2010 15:08 BJT

CANBERRA, July 14 (Xinhua) -- Nauru President Marcus Stephen on Wednesday said his government is open to the idea of hosting a regional refugee processing center but is yet to receive an approach from Australian officials.

The Australian federal government on Wednesday maintained Timor- Leste remained the focus for Prime Minister Julia Gillard's plan of establishing a regional processing center for asylum seekers.

Nauru was used to house asylum seekers as part of the Pacific Solution but was axed after Labor won office in 2007.

"Naturally, we would consider any request for assistance either on this matter or any other issue," Stephen told the Macquarie Network on Wednesday.

"There has been no official or formal request or discussions from the Australian government."

The government so far has ruled out reopening Nauru on the grounds that unlike Timor-Leste, the Pacific island nation was not a signatory to the United Nations (UN) convention on refugees.

Stephen has indicated his government would be willing to become a signatory if it would help secure a deal on a refugee processing center.

But he refused to say whether he thought Labor's apparent opposition to Nauru as a potential site was down to its long- standing policy of opposing it, and that it would be seen as a back-flip and a green light to the coalition's policy.

"I really don't want to get involved with the domestic policies in another country," Stephen said.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott on Wednesday again urged the government to consider Nauru.

"Nauru has a center, it was built by Australia, with Australian taxpayers' money," Abbott said.

"There's no reason why it can't be used again."

Editor:Jin Lin |Source: Xinhua

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