POSITIVE SIGNS OF MILITANT INVOLVEMENT IN SOLOMON ISLANDS PEACE TALKS

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HONIARA, Solomon Islands (May 3, 2000 – Radio Australia)---On the eve of planned peace talks in the Solomon Islands, there are positive signs that leaders from the two key militant groups will be present at the talks.

Radio Australia Pacific correspondent Kevin McQuillan reports that the tripartite talks will be held at Buala in Isabel province on Thursday and Friday.

"The Malaitan Eagle Force said last week it wanted a ban on the group lifted, fearing arrest if members appeared in public.

"The Isatambu leaders had similar concerns but agreed to attend.

"Then, on Monday, a statement by the prime minister (Bartholomew Ulufa‘alu) that those wanted on charges of rape and murder would be arrested, prompted some Isatambu leaders to back out of the talks

"Now it appears a compromise has been reached.

"The Commonwealth's Assistant envoy, Ade Adefuyi, says five Isatambu leaders and three Malaitan Force leaders have now agreed to go to Buala as part of their respective provincial government teams.

"Foreign Minister Patteson Oti will represent the national government. Malaitan premier David Oeta will lead another delegation. Guadalcanal premier Ezekial Alebua will lead the third.

"Commonwealth envoy Sitiveni Rabuka will open the talks, which is expected to conclude with a reconciliation ceremony.

"Kevin McQuillan, Radio Australia."

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

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