CANBERRA, Australia (AP) _ Australia canceled a naval visit to Vanuatu Saturday, protesting the expulsion of its acting high commissioner from the Pacific island nation.

Vanuatu has accused the diplomat, James Pearson, of interfering in the island state's internal affairs and on Friday gave him 24 hours to leave.

The Australian navy ships HMAS Jervis Bay and HMAS Derwent were due to visit Vanuatu July 9-12, but Foreign Minister Gareth Evans said the visit would no longer be appropriate.

Evans spoke with Vanuatu Prime Minister Maxime Carlot Saturday but failed to persuade him to rescind the expulsion decision.

Evans said he planned to discuss the matter with Carlot and Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating at the South Pacific Forum meeting in the Solomon Islands, which begins Wednesday.

The Vanuatu government expelled Pearson after he protested a new law that lets the finance minister refuse, grant or revoke a business license without explanation or any avenue for legal appeal.

Vanuatu was governed jointly by Britain and France before gaining independence in 1980.