VANUATU TO KEEP PARA-MILITARY FORCE

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PORT VILA, Vanuatu (July 31, 1997 - PACNEWS)---The Vanuatu government will continue to support the para-military Vanuatu Mobile Force (VMF) as part of the Melanesian nation's Police Force.

Prime Minister Serge Vohor confirmed the decision during a national address Wednesday, marking the 17th anniversary of Vanuatu's independence from France and Britain.

Until Vohor's announcement, the future of the VMF, which had undergone a comprehensive review, was uncertain.

The Vanuatu Mobile Force has been under a cloud since last year, after disgruntled members abducted the Vanuatu Head of State, President Jean-Marie Leye, in an effort to force the government to pay outstanding allowances.

As a result of the abduction, many officials recommended abolishing the VMF. But Prime Minister Vohor said Wednesday, it will continue as part of the Police Force, with responsibility for national security.

Meantime, the Vanuatu Supreme Court has given 2-3 year prison sentences to the eight Vanuatu Mobile Force members involved in President Leye's kidnapping.

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