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Solomon Islands Legalizes Deployment of Peacekeepers - 2003-07-17


The parliament of the Solomon Islands has passed a measure legalizing the deployment of an Australian-led peacekeeping force to the troubled South Pacific nation. The Solomon Islands has been plagued by economic and political chaos and is near collapse from years of violence.

The parliamentary bill was the last legal hurdle to the deployment of foreign police and troops to the Solomon Islands to restore law and order. Australia will contribute the bulk of the force of more than two-thousand, with New Zealand committing some 200 troops and 30 police to the effort.

Ronald May, a professor at the Australian National University, says neighboring states had to intervene. "The Solomon Islands is pretty much a case of a collapsed state at the moment," he said. "And I think the feeling has been that the country does need some external assistance, and the only people who are likely to be able to provide that in a meaningful way are Australia and New Zealand."

The Solomon Islands, located some 1,600 kilometers northeast of Australia, has been wracked by ethnic violence since 1999. Rival militias of the islands of Guadalcanal and Malaita began battling over land and jobs. The situation has since deteriorated into what New Zealand Foreign Minister Phil Goff recently described as "pure criminality."

Neighboring countries are concerned the Solomons could be used as a staging ground or haven for terrorist activity, unless order is restored.