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'Substantial' Improvement Reported in Solomon Islands Security


The head of the Australian-led intervention force in the troubled Solomon Islands says there has been a substantial improvement in security since the operation began more than 24-hours ago. Twenty-five-hundred troops and police officers are being deployed in the coming days and weeks

This is the second day of the international mission to rescue this South Pacific archipelago. The man in charge has delivered an upbeat assessment of its early progress.

The special coordinator in charge of the Australian-led intervention, Nick Warner, said joint patrols between Australian officers and their counterparts in the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force had begun and were already making a difference. He spoke to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

"We arrived yesterday [Thursday] with fleets of C-130 Hercules aircraft … we have 750 military on the ground already and 84 or so police and from the moment we arrived, things really did change," Mr. Warner said.

Foreign troops now guard key institutions here in Honiara. The prime minister, Allan Kemakeza, is also being closely protected.

The peacekeeping mission Operation Helpem Fren (Helping Friend) is supported by island nations across the South Pacific. Fiji, Papua New Guinea, and Tonga as well as New Zealand, the Cook Islands, and Kiribati have all committed forces to this Australian-led campaign.

The presence of foreign soldiers and police officers on the streets of Honiara has been broadly welcomed by the majority of the capital's residents after years of ethnic unrest.

The Australian-led force has made illegal weapons its number-one priority in these early days of intervention.

It is clear this rescue mission will be slow and gradual. Only a third of the multinational force has been deployed. Those detachments already here, are now a regular and visible presence on the pot-holed streets of Honiara.

The daily grind of everyday life for many of its residents goes on, but there is a feeling the Solomon Islands now has a real chance of a positive future free of the lawlessness and hopelessness of past few years.

"This country has been through a dreadful four or five years that institutions of state have been degraded, that corruption has been rife, that extortion and intimidation have become a way of life and thugs and criminals have held sway in too far serious a way and that this operation … was here to change this," said Nick Warner.

The intervention force is present at the invitation of the Solomons' government. It is expected to take months to restore peace and order and Australia officials say as long as a decade to rebuild the country.

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