AUSSIES EYE SOLOMONS WITHDRAWAL

SYDNEY, Australia (ABC News Online, Oct. 15) - Australia has declared the three-month deployment to Solomon Islands an enormous success and says some troops can be withdrawn.

Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer says the regional assistance mission has removed key threats to the Solomons government.

Mr Downer told Parliament that harassment of officials in the capital, Honiara, has ceased and crimes committed in recent years are being investigated.

"This initiative to deploy into the Solomon Islands has so far been enormously successful and the security situation in particular is massively better," Mr Downer said.

"Obviously we will have to consider now the gradual draw-down of some military elements, consistent with the police-led nature of the regional assistance mission."

Mr Downer says that in the year to next June, Australia will spend $12 million to help run the government of the Solomon Islands.

He says 17 Australians are now in the Solomons public service to ensure financial management.

New systems have been agreed for economic reform and to target corruption.

Mr Downer says a meeting next month should see solid loan promises to Solomon Islands from international donors.

He says international institutions have re-engaged with the Solomons after Australia repaid loans owed to the World Bank and Asian Development Bank.

October 16, 2003

ABC News Online: http://abc.net.au/news/

 

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