5 May 2004

NZ minister says RAMSI troop role set to end in July

9:02 am on 5 May 2004

New Zealand's Defence Minister, Mark Burton, says the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands is continuing to assess whether soldiers should stay beyond July.

Mr Burton has announced that about 120 New Zealand Defence Force personnel, including two helicopter crews and an infantry platoon, will stay there until the end of July.

He says the feeling among the nations contributing to RAMSI is that that's a good date to work towards withdrawing the military component.

Mr Burton says when the force was downsized late last year it was anticipated the remaining troops would be home this month.

But he says such an extension is in the nature of these operations and the Government will continue to keep it under review.

"this has been a very successful intervention and I don't anybody would want to be hard and fast about, oh well we have set this date so that's when we are going, if that wasn't going to be the ideal date - the key thing is to scale back the military involvement as the civil and non military activity expands and that is essentially what we are doing."