HONIARA, Solomon Islands (August 3, 2000 - Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation/PINA Nius Online)---Commanders and leaders of the joint para-military/Malaita Eagle Force operation have finally signed the long-awaited cease-fire agreement in Honiara.

The first part of the signing ceremony was witnessed by the chairpersons of the cease-fire agreement talks, Sir Peter Kenilorea and Paul Tovua, and the Archbishop of the Church of Melanesia, the Most Reverend Ellison Pogo.

The agreement was being transported to Aruligo on West Guadalcanal last night, where three Isatabu Freedom Movement commanders, Harold Keke, Joseph Sangu and George Grey, are expected to put their signatures on it, along with other leaders and commanders.

(Background: There have been continuing difficulties getting warring Guadalcanal and Malaitan militia forces to declare a cease-fire in the ethnic conflict engulfing Guadalcanal for the past 19 months. The capital, Honiara, is under the control of a joint operation of the Malaita Eagle Force and elements of the paramilitary police field force. The Guadalcanal countryside is largely under the control of Guadalcanal's Isatabu Freedom Movement. The ethnic conflict began when Guadalcanal militants began trying to drive out Malaitans, claiming they dominated government and business and were taking over Guadalcanal land.)

Meanwhile, speakers at the first part of the signing have expressed joy and hope that the agreement will be a success.

Co-chairpersons of the ceasefire talks, Sir Peter and Mr. Tovua, expressed a desire for parties to honor the agreement.

Welcoming delegates to the ceremonies, Sir Peter said from now on, the country will depend on its own resources and leadership for the success of the talks.

He said it is one thing signing an agreement, and it is another living by it.

Mr. Tovua said what transpired yesterday was comforting and encouraging.

He said in efforts towards national unity, those who signed must play a leading role.

He said the guiding principal in the recent days of talks is the right of Solomon Islanders to live in harmony.

Commanders and leaders of the joint paramilitary/Malaita Eagle Force operation were the first to sign, followed by the national government.

An Isatabu Freedom Movement Commander Andrew Te‘e said he's happy that a ceasefire agreement is finally being agreed to and signed.

He was speaking in an interview with SIBC just before the signing ceremony aboard the Australian supply ship, the HMAS Tobruk.

He said if the agreement is what the people of this nation wanted, he is pleased to put his signature on it.

Mr. Te‘e declined to confirm if the three West Guadalcanal commanders will sign the agreement.

The agreement becomes effective in 48 hours.

For additional reports from the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation.

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