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Police and troops will be deployed to the Solomon Islands to restore law and order.

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Wednesday 25 June 2003

Police and troops will be deployed to the Solomon Islands to restore law and order


LINDA MOTTRAM: Australia is preparing today for a major intervent ion in the Solomon Islands, involving police and troops. 


The plan will go before today's meeting of the National Security Committee of Cabinet in Canberra and then to a special meeting of South Pacific Foreign Ministers to be held in Sydney on Monday. 


It marks a significant change in Australia's position on direct involvement in the region, as Graeme Dobell reports. 


GRAEME DOBELL: The National Security Committee of Cabinet is to consider a plan to deploy a pacific police contingent to the Solomons capital Honiara to restore law and order. It will be dominated by Australian police, but also draw numbers from New Zealand and other Pacific states. The plan also calls for a new effort to stabilise the collapsing Solomons economy and reassert some control over the Solomons budget. 


The Australian Security Committee will have to look at what level of military backup is needed for a regional force which will be cleaning up the lingering mess of the police coup in Honiara in June 2000. Once Australian ministers have approved the intervention plan, it will go to a meeting of foreign ministers of the 16-nation Pacific Islands forum. The talks in Sydney on Monday will be part of Canberra's effort to make this a regional intervention in the Solomons, not an Australian imposition. 


Mr Downer. 


ALEXANDER DOWNER: Whatever we do will be at the request of and in full cooperation with the Solomon Islands. I should emphasise here that the focus of our possible assistance will not be to settle old scores, nor to right the wrongs of the past. 


GRAEME DOBELL: The problem for Australia is that the move from hands-off to intervention in the South Pacific seems to be moving quicker than the political process in the Solomon Islands. 


The Solomons Parliament was to have met this week to debate a motion asking for regional intervention and approving a legal framework for foreign police. That meeting is now timed for July the 8th. 


Australia has to be careful to get this sequence of intervention right, so it's not seen as stepping in merely to help one set of politicians in the ruling Kemakeza Government in Honiara, hence the Downer line about not trying to settle old scores. 


But the mood for intervention in a neighbouring failed state seems to be on the rise in Canberra. The man who'll take over as Australia's Governor General in August, retired Major General Michael Jeffrey. 


MICHAEL JEFFREY: I am a person who believes in the, our responsibilities in the region, and the south-west pacific, I think that's going to cause us a lot of problems for many years to come, and we're seeing that now in the Solomons, and perhaps what's going to happen happened there. 


LINDA MOTTRAM: Australia's Governor General designate, Major General Michael Jeffrey. Graeme Dobell reporting.