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HONIARA, Solomon Islands (April 27, 1999 - PACNEWS/SIBC)---The Council of Bishops of the Church of Melanesia has indicated that it is willing to facilitate peace negotiations in the Solomon Islands province of Guadalcanal.

The Council, in a statement, announced it was deeply concerned with the tension and violence on the island.

The statement said the bishops recognize the land rights of the indigenous people of Guadalcanal, and called for peaceful negotiations and reconciliation between the people of Guadalcanal and neighboring Malaita province.

They also said they deplore current militant activities on Guadalcanal.

The Council said it was particularly concerned about the recent attack on innocent students that resulted in the closure of secondary schools on the island. The bishops described the attacks as unacceptable.

They called on the Government of Prime Minister Bartholomew Ulufa’alu to compensate the people of Guadalcanal, who are seeking financial support for the use of Honiara as the national capital.

Guadalcanal also wants greater recognition of the rights of indigenous Guadalcanal people.

The Council of Bishops is hopeful those involved in the conflict will lay down their arms and enter into formal and peaceful negotiations.

Yesterday, militant leaders gave their assurances to Guadalcanal Premier Ezekiel Alebua that they would surrender their arms and take part in peace negotiations.

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