MALAITA EAGLE FORCE DICTATES PEACE TALK TERMS

By Duran Angiki

GIZO, Solomon Islands (August 2, 2000 - Wantok Press/Pasifik Nius/Niuswire)---Australia’s efforts to assist the warring parties in the ethnic conflict in the Solomon Islands to reach a cease-fire agreement have resulted in more frustrations.

This follows the failure of the Malaita Eagle Force (MEF) and the Isatabu Freedom Movement (IFM) to sign a cease-fire agreement yesterday.

Sources close to the Solomon Islands government claimed that Australia, through its High Commission in Honiara, expressed disappointment over the consistent delay in reaching a cease-fire.

The Solomon Islands government negotiating delegation to the peace-talk revealed that the cease-fire agreement, which the warring parties had initially planned to sign yesterday, had been rescheduled.

The government delegation explained that the delay was to give time for the leaders to properly assess the cease-fire's terms and conditions.

Sources attending the peace-talks said the main cause of the delay was the consistent dictating attitude of the MEF leader, Andrew Nori.

They alleged that the MEF leader had been come up with new demands everyday, which made the negotiation talks fail to reach a comprehensive resolution.

Early last week, the Honiara-based Australian High Commissioner, Dr. Martin Sharp, said the success of the peace-talk would depend on the willingness of the involved parties.

He said Australia was only facilitating the peace talks by providing the HMAS Tobruk as a meeting venue and transportation for the parties to attend the meetings.

However, over last weekend, the Australian government warned the Solomon Islands government to speed up the peace talks, as the HMAS Tobruk would travel back to Australia soon.

Solomon Islands' government sources said the Australian government’s warning came about due to frustrations over the militants’ failure to reach a cease-fire agreement.

Meanwhile, the situation on the ground in Honiara has further deteriorated as criminal elements of the MEF continue to hijack vehicles and carrying out looting.

Honiara Police confirmed that members of the IFM and MEF had engaged in a number of shootouts over the weekend and yesterday at both ends of Honiara.

Title -- 2880 SOLOMON IS: MEF dictates peace talk terms Date -- 2 August 2000 Byline -- Duran Angiki Origin -- Pasifik Nius Source -- Wantok Press, angiki_dp@solomon.com.sb 2/8/00  Copyright -- PN/FS/DP/FT Status -- Unabridged

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