SOLOMON ISLANDS CONCERNED ABOUT ITS ARMS STORED IN NEW ZEALAND

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HONIARA, Solomon Islands (January 30, 2000 – Radio Australia)---The Solomon Islands government is trying to decide when it should have its arms and equipment -- which have been stored in New Zealand free of charge -- shipped to the Solomon Islands.

Radio Australia correspondent George Atkin reports that Prime Minister Bartholomew Ulufa‘alu says the arrangement with Wellington to store the goods now has expired.

"The arms and equipment were bought from the United States by the former government of the late Solomon Mamaloni in 1997.

"Mr. Ulufa‘alu says Wellington has yet to inform his government if it will start charging the Solomon Islands for storing the arms and equipment, which include sophisticated weapons and a helicopter.

(The weapons were purchased by the Solomon Islands during the height of the Bougainville secessionist crisis in neighboring Papua New Guinea.)

"He has reiterated that the Solomon Islands does not need the arms and equipment.

"Prime Minister Ulufa‘alu says his government has been contemplating the idea of selling the military hardware. The government, however, needs the consent of the American suppliers before it can do so.

"So far, Mr. Ulufa‘alu says, this has not been forthcoming.

"George Atkin for Radio Australia in the Solomon Islands."

For additional reports from Radio Australia, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Radio Australia.

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