AUSSIE ADVANCE TEAM ARRIVES IN SOLOMONS

HONOLULU, Hawaii (PIR, July 9) – A small contingent of Australian military and police has reportedly arrived in the Solomon Islands, even as the troubled nation’s parliament began debating plans for a multi-national intervention force to quell violence and disorder.

According to news agency Agence France-Presse, 15 officers of the Australian Defense Force and federal police arrived in Honiara on Monday to lay plans for a full deployment and were due to leave on Friday.

Australia plans to lead a force of about 2,000 troops and police to the Solomons, now acknowledged as a failed state unable to control lawless warlords, pay its public workers, or run the government. While Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, and Tahiti have offered their support, Australia and New Zealand appear to be carrying much of the burden of such an action.

But while the Solomon Islands government has made a formal appeal for help, the pending plans have yet to be reviewed and approved by the Solomons parliament. The lawmakers, in their first formal gathering this year, convened in a special session yesterday to consider the matter.

A conspicuous target of the intervening force is Harold Keke, a Guadalcanal warlord believed responsible for at least 50 killings in the Weathercoast area south of Honiara. Hundreds of villagers have fled the area in recent weeks, filling temporary camps in and around the capitol amid reports of rape, torture and beheadings.

But analysts say Keke is not alone in terrorizing the Solomons in the face of an ineffectual police force.

Australia has said it hopes to bring order to the Solomons and aid in the country’s social and economic recovery.

July 9, 2003

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