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HONIARA, Solomon Islands (February 3, 2001 - Solomon Star/Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation/PINA Nius Online)---The Solomon Islands Government Treasury Division is under pressure to make up SI$ 2.2 million (US$ 432,000) worth of bounced government checks with the ANZ Bank.

Sources said the checks were issued mainly in December.

Since then customers who were issued checks have been calling almost every day at the ANZ Bank only to be told "there is no money in the account."

It culminated with the closure of banks in Honiara following threats by former militants demanding their money.

The government has been trying to meet compensation and other payments following the Townsville Peace Agreement ending two years of ethnic conflict.

Bank sources confirmed that the bounced checks totaled SI$ 2.2 million (US$ 432,000).

It is understood the government operates two major accounts through ANZ Bank.

The banks were due to reopen today after assurances of security offered by the militants' commanders.

But the banks said if there is any repeat of the problem they could shut down for much longer.

They issued a joint statement saying that they provided a public service free from political bias.

Meantime, in other news, the infamous bulldozer, which was converted into a tank by the Malaita Eagle Force and used in clashes with the Isatabu Freedom Movement, has been dismantled.

Workshop owner Steven Wasi, whose men dismantled the machine, said it was another sign that the Guadalcanal war is over.

"I'm not a former militant," he stressed. "I voluntarily offered my service and workshop to dismantle the added parts to the bulldozer."

He said it was his contribution to the restoration of peace.

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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