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Controversial Solomon Islands Prime Minister Quits


The controversial prime minister of the Solomon Islands, Snyder Rini, has resigned. His appointment eight days ago sparked a wave of unrest in the capital of the South Pacific nation. The violence prompted several neighboring countries, including Australia to send in troops and police officers to restore order.

It has been another dramatic day in the Solomon Islands.

Snyder Rini's resignation prompted noisy celebrations among his opponents on the streets of the capital Honiara.

The prime minister stepped down as members of parliament were preparing to vote on a motion of no confidence against him. It was clear the embattled leader had lost the support of key allies.

Mr. Rini said he had no alternative but to quit and hoped his decision would bring peace to his troubled country.

His appointment last week sparked violent disturbances. Rioters particularly targeted the city's Chinatown district, because of allegations that Mr. Rini had used money from local Chinese businessmen to bribe his way into office. His strong denials did little to quell 48 hours of looting and arson. The violence was so extreme that hundreds of ethnic Chinese fled the country.

Australia, New Zealand and Fiji sent in peacekeepers to restore order.

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer told the National Press Club in Canberra that he hopes the election of a new leader will be free and fair.

"I'd like to feel that the members of the parliament of the Solomon Islands are able to vote unencumbered and without inappropriate incentives, if you know what I mean, and I'm sure you do," he said. "If there was any corruption involved in the last vote, well, that will be exposed through police investigations and charges might be brought and prosecutions take place."

In July 2003 foreign troops were deployed in the Solomon Islands after years of ethnic fighting. The situation was improving until the controversial election of Mr. Rini. Lawmakers are expected to elect his replacement early next week.

Analysts have said Mr. Rini's resignation should ensure there is no return to the violence that shook Honiara a week ago.

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