SYDNEY, Australia (ABC News Online, July 17) - The Solomon Islands Parliament has passed a law giving legal authority to the Australian-led cooperative intervention force to enter the troubled country.

The bill passed its third reading in the national Parliament in Honiara this evening after two days of debate.

The Solomon Islands attorney general, who is not an elected member of parliament, sat in the chamber during the committee stages of the bill to explain its ramifications and answer questions from members.

Some members were concerned about the immunity provisions being provided to the police and soldiers from Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Tonga and other Pacific Islands.

The forces are expected to start arriving in the Solomons next week.

Former prime minister Bartholomew Ulafa'alu, who was forced to resign by those who staged the 2000 coup, moved an amendment to include a section that would have meant the finance for the whole operation would have to be funneled through the Solomon Islands budget.

That was voted down.

In the end, the bill was passed by voice vote without dissent.

Earlier, Solomons Tourism Minister Alex Bartlett indicated his full support for the bill.

"It is time for unity, it is time for justice, for peace, love and forgiveness," he said. "The call for upholding the future of this country is now, not tomorrow."

The Solomons has suffered a four-year civil war that has resulted in the breakdown of government and other institutions. The country is effectively bankrupt.

In a statement yesterday, Prime Minister Allan Kemakeza told the nation the force was there to help, not harm.

"It will be strange at first to see so many foreigners wearing uniforms, driving army or police vehicles around town or flying overhead in their helicopters," he said. "But the majority of Solomon Islanders, who live peaceful and law-abiding lives, have no need to be afraid."

July 18, 2003

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