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HONIARA, Solomon Islands (October 4, 2000 - Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation/PINA Nius Online)---The Malaita Eagle Force will not surrender its arms until a Guadalcanal peace agreement is signed.

Spokesman for the joint Malaita Eagle Force/police paramilitary elements operation, Andrew Nori, made the statement at a news conference in Honiara.

Mr. Nori said legally the police force has taken control of Honiara. However, he said their problem is that they don't have the capacity to fully control law and order in the capital.

He said some guns are still in the hands of members of the Malaita Eagle Force and the police require the force’s assistance -- and their weapons -- in carrying out the joint operation.

Mr. Nori added that the security arrangements in Honiara organized into seven zones, with each zone headed by a police officer.

He said members of the Malaita Eagle Force work under the police officer in charge in efforts to ensure there is law and order in the capital.

(Background: A cease-fire in the Solomon Islands follows ethnic conflict which engulfed Guadalcanal, the island on which the capital, Honiara, is located.

Peace talks started aboard a New Zealand navy ship off Honiara, and are due to continue in Cairns, Australia, this month. The ethnic conflict began when Guadalcanal militants tried to drive out settlers from another island, Malaita, claiming they dominated government and business and were taking over Guadalcanal land.

Honiara has been under the control of a joint operation of the Malaita Eagle Force militia and elements of the paramilitary police field force. The Guadalcanal countryside is largely under the control of Guadalcanal's Isatabu Freedom Movement militia.)

The United Nations Assessment Mission for Disarmament is recommending that the disarmament of the Isatabu Freedom Movement and Malaita Eagle Force be accomplished in parallel with the restoration of law and order in the country.

However, the leader of the mission, who has been in Honiara for a week, Robert Scharf, said this hinges on the outcome of peace talks between the two militant groups, which get under way again in Cairns, Australia, next week.

Mr. Scharf said after meeting with representatives of the government, NGO's and the two militant groups, the mission now has a comprehensive view of the situation.

He said the mission would be recommending that the disarmament of members be accomplished in connection with development projects for their communities.

Mr. Scharf explained that this "arms for development" strategy would benefit the whole community and also re-integrate the militants back into society.

He said a meeting with the donor community in Honiara yesterday showed that the donors are ready to support such a strategy if it is acceptable to the two militant groups.

Mr. Scharf indicated that to implement this strategy, the United Nations Development Program is expected to increase its presence in the Solomon Islands and undertake a massive awareness program.

Members of the UN Mission are expected to brief the Deputy Prime Minister, Allan Kemakeza, on their findings and recommendations before they leave Honiara.

In other developments:

* Amnesty International has expressed concern over the safety of Solomon Airlines pilot Eric Rove, who was kidnapped by an Isatabu Freedom Movement faction led by Harold Keke.

Captain Rove, from Roviana Lagoon in Western Province, was held hostage after he landed his Britten Norman Islander aircraft at Babanakira, on the Weather Coast of Guadalcanal, September 16 on a scheduled flight.

His captors demanded SI$ 2 million (US$ 398,000) for his release and for the return of his Solomon Airlines Islander aircraft.

Since his capture, the government had been negotiating with the militants.

The deadline for his safe release has been extended several times, and the current deadline expired yesterday.

Representatives of the Melanesian Brotherhood of the Church of Melanesia have been negotiating with the militants on behalf of the government.

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

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: 

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