COOKS PEACE MONITORS ON ALERT FOR SOLOMONS DUTY

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AVARUA, Cook Islands (December 19, 2000 - Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat)---Preparations are being made for four police officers to join an international peacekeeping team in the Solomon Islands.

Other nations so far involved in supporting the Townsville Peace Agreement and a ceasefire following two years of ethnic fighting between Guadalcanal and Malaita militants over land rights and jobs, are Australia, New Zealand and Vanuatu.

Cook Islands Police Commissioner Peter Wichman said many police officers are interested in taking up duty in the Solomons, and he has had positive responses from a significant number of potential participants.

"At this stage, " Wichman said. "We’re just waiting for official notification from our government or the authorities overseas before we can actually have a deeper planning process to get ready to go over."

However, Wichman said the force’s maritime division is not eligible to go on the Solomon Islands mission, as its members will be needed in the Cooks during the upcoming hurricane season.

He said Australian and New Zealand authorities will assist in training the Cook Islands officers.

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

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