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Australia, New Zealand Ready to Send Security Forces to Solomon Islands - 2003-06-29

Australia and New Zealand will seek support from their neighbors this week to send peacekeeping troops and police to the troubled Solomon Islands.

Foreign ministers of the two countries will push the plan Monday at a meeting of the region's top diplomats in Sydney.

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said Sunday that Canberra is ready to send at least 1,500 police and troops to help restore law and order in the Solomons as soon as the islands' parliament requests help.

The former British protectorate is facing financial ruin after four years of ethnic conflict.

Mr. Downer spoke to reporters after two days of talks with his New Zealand counterpart, Phil Goff. Mr. Goff said New Zealand will commit 200 troops and at least 30 police to the Australian-led rescue plan for the Solomons, which he described as a state on the verge of collapse.

Both men said their governments may have to consider doubling economic aid to the impoverished nation.