ANOTHER WITHDRAWAL OF PEACEKEEPERS IN SOLOMON ISLANDERS

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HONIARA, Solomon Islands (March 8, 2002 – Radio Australia)---The Australian-led International Peace Monitoring Team in the Solomon Islands has now evacuated its third post in the past month, following security threats.

The team pulled its monitors out of Malu‘u in North Malaita on Thursday, after they were threatened by former militants.

Radio Australia correspondent Dorothy Wickham reports from Honiara.

"The evacuation of the international peace monitors from the third post in only one month marks a turn in the tide of peace making in the country.

"Only three weeks ago, the monitors pulled out of the Marau area on the eastern tip of Guadalcanal and from Tetere on the Guadalcanal Plains.

"The sudden withdrawal leaves a gaping hole in the monitoring process, which the local Peace Monitoring Council is not financially or logistically ready to fill.

"The international team was to have pulled out of the Solomon Islands in phases, with the final withdrawal planned for October.

"The government now is left looking for another option to keep the peace and restore law and order, with the subtle but obvious increase in illegal activities.

"Solomon Islanders are now left wondering if the Australian peace initiative in the country has collapsed and what will now happen in the next few months.

"Dorothy Wickham, for Radio Australia in Honiara."

 

HUNDREDS TURN OUT FOR ANTI-GUN RALLY IN SOLOMONS

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (March 8, 2002 – Radio Australia)---Hundreds of Solomon Islanders turned out for a rally in the capital, Honiara, Friday, calling on former militiamen involved in the Guadalcanal-Malaita ethnic conflict to hand in their weapons.

The rally was organized by the Peace Monitoring Council, following the failure of the former militia groups to hand in all the weapons used during the two-year’s of ethnic turmoil.

Officials say there are still about 500 high-powered weapons in the community as well as hand-made weapons based on guns leftover from World War II.

Council Chairman Sir Peter Kenilorea urged Solomon Islanders still holding weapons to turn them in.

He said there would be no peace in Solomon Islands until all the weapons were handed in.

"There are still too many weapons in the community. Everyone of those guns is a breach of the Townsville Peace Agreement. There can be no lasting peace, without a weapons-free society," he said.

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

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