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Tense Calm Settles Over Troubled Solomon Islands


A tense calm has settled over the strife-torn Solomon Islands after Australian troops arrived to quell two-days of rioting sparked by the election of a controversial prime minister.

The streets of the Solomon Islands capital Honiara have remained quiet since the arrival late Wednesday of 180 additional Australian soldiers and police officers.

The reinforcements from Australia have joined a small group of foreign peacekeepers, which was also targeted during this week's violent protests.

Widespread looting and rioting erupted in Honiara's Chinatown district following Tuesday's appointment of Snyder Rini as the new prime minister.

Mr. Rini, who was sworn in Thursday, is accused of using money from Taiwan to bribe recently elected lawmakers. He has strongly denied the allegations but his critics believe he is unduly influenced by sections of the wealthy Chinese business community in Honiara.

Taiwan and China have been engaged in a struggle for diplomatic influence in the South Pacific. A recent report by the Australian parliament said this was inflaming tensions in the region.

Without specifying which countries, Australian Prime Minister John Howard said some foreign governments were creating unnecessary problems.

"There are countries other than countries that are geographically part of the region which have an interest in involving themselves and gathering allies and partners in the region not necessarily with the longer term interests of the region at heart," he said.

China views Taiwan as its province and has successfully isolated it from much of the international diplomatic community.

A number of small nations such as the Solomon Islands recognize Taipei in return for generous aid donations.

The Solomon Islands was torn apart by ethnic fighting until an Australian-led multi-national peacekeeping force restored order in 2003.

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