SOLOMONS PARLIAMENT MEMBER REJECTS CLAIM OF INVOLVEMENT IN WEATHER COAST

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HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Oct. 12, 2002 – Radio New Zealand International)---A member of parliament in the Solomon Islands Opposition, Alfred Sasako, says there is no evidence to back up claims by the prime minister that he was behind a failed attempt in June to take rebel leader Harold Keke into custody.

A group of 10 Malaitan men traveled to the Weather Coast in June to try and collect the bounty on the warlord, but they were massacred on Keke’s orders.

Prime Minister Sir Allen Kemakeza said Friday that Sasako, the Opposition’s Foreign Affairs spokesman, should resign over his role in the failed mission.

Sasako says that while he had expected the prime minister to make such a claim, there is nothing in it, and police had not spoken to him about the mission.

Sasako says he welcomes the chance to sue the prime minister for defaming him. "I don't have a shred of dot against my name and I stand innocent before God and before my constituency and the people of Solomon Islands.

"If the Prime Minister and I were to be put together and judged on integrity, I think people know who comes out first," Sasako said.

Kemakeza admitted yesterday that he had encouraged militants not to surrender their guns, but that a planned reconciliation between the various groups was derailed by the attempt to take Keke into custody.

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

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