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HONIARA, Solomon Islands (October 31, 2000 - Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation/PINA Nius Online)---An aid donors mission led by the World Bank arrives in Honiara today to assess the economic and social impact of the two-year ethnic tension in the Solomon Islands.

Finance Secretary George Kiriau told SIBC News the mission will also include representatives from Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

Mr. Kiriau said the mission, which will be in Honiara for ten days, is important because its assessments and recommendations will be used as a basis for assistance from aid donors.

He said the focus will likely be on emergency assistance to enable the Solomon Islands to recover from the crisis.

Mr. Kiriau emphasized that the World Bank and other aid donors have sent the mission to Solomon Islands because of recognition of the progress made so far in the peace process, including the signing of the Townsville Peace Agreement.

He urged all parties concerned to ensure a successful implementation of the agreement so that aid donors can assist the Solomon Islands economy recover quickly.

Mr. Kiriau added that the International Monetary Fund also will be sending a mission to the Solomon Islands on November 4th to consider additional ways to assist the country.

In other developments:

The Isatabu Freedom Movement has again pledged its full commitment to the Townsville Peace Agreement.

The commitment was publicly reiterated by its Western Region Supreme Commander, Joseph Sangu, who brushed aside rumors that the Isatabu Freedom Movement is planning to make attacks on the Russell Islands.

He said such assumptions can only be made by people who want to discredit the Isatabu Freedom Movement, which supported the recently signed Townsville Peace Agreement.

Meanwhile, Mr. Sangu confirmed that its Western region leaders will start collecting arms from former militants as soon as the government provides logistic support to cover the three zones in the region.

In other developments, the Isatabu Freedom Movement will hand over ammunition to the government tomorrow, to be witnessed by Malaita Eagle Force commanders as a gesture of commitment to the Townsville Peace Accord.

Co-chairman of the Peace Monitoring Council, Paul Tovua, confirmed that the Isatabu Freedom Movement High Command had advised him that the surrendering of arms is in an advanced stage.

At the same time the co-chairman called on Solomon Islanders to support the International Peace Monitoring Team in their work on Guadalcanal and Malaita.

* The cost of re-opening Gold Ridge mining on Guadalcanal could run into the millions of dollars.

In a press statement, the General Manager of Gold Ridge Mining Limited, Rod Hanson, said exact costs and a time frame for re-opening could only be determined after visits to the site are made to determine and assess damage, theft of property and the deterioration of plant and equipment.

Mr. Hanson pointed out that resumption of full production might take up to six months from the time the work force is back on site.

He said, in addition to the value of lost production and costs for re-starting the mine, the economic circumstances - such as falling gold prices and rising oil prices - are having a negative economic impact on the project.

He said the company is aware of speculations in the Solomon Islands regarding a possible re-negotiation of the mining agreement with the government.

However, Mr. Hanson warned that any additional requirements on the mine will only serve to reduce its economic viability and re-opening.

* Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare will hold his first official discussions during his Taiwanese trip when he makes a courtesy call on the Republic of China Foreign Minister Dr. Hung-mao Tien today.

Prime Minister Sogavare is also expected to meet with Taiwan's President and Premier as well as open the Solomon Islands Embassy in Taipei during the one-week visit.

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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