SOLOMON ISLANDS URGES STOP TO ARMS SHIPMENT FROM U.S

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CANBERRA, Australia (January 29, 1998 - PACNEWS)---Australia is considering as "a matter of urgency" a request by the Solomon Islands government to stop a secret $US 4 million arms shipment that is on its way to Honiara, via Australia, from the United States.

The consignment, said to include large amounts of ammunition, M16 rifles and other small arms, was ordered from an American dealer, Century Arms, by former Solomon Islands Prime Minister Solomon Mamaloni, shortly before he lost office last year.

A formal request to waylay the shipment was made to Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer in New Zealand last week by Solomon Islands Prime Minister Bartholomew Ulufa'alu when they met at the Bougainville peace talks.

Reports say the Solomon Islands government is concerned about the possible impact of the arms shipment on the truce now in effect on neighboring Bougainville.

Ulufa'alu has described the arms as "war mongering" and says his government does not want to waste money on the consignment at a time when its efforts are going towards resolving the Bougainville secessionist conflict.

A spokesperson for the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra told PACNEWS today that Australia was considering possible ways to assist with the Solomon Islands' request, taking into account the policy and legal considerations involved.

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