7 Jun 2003

New Zealand considers armed force for Solomon Islands

9:16 am on 7 June 2003

The New Zealand foreign minister, Phil Goff, says the Solomon Islands prime minister, Sir Allen Kemakeza, has asked aid donors to send an armed force to help restore law and order.

Mr Goff says such a force is a possibility but a mission to Honiara next week will consider all options for assistance.

His comments come after crisis talks on Thursday in Canberra between the Australian and Solomon Islands governments.

They also mark a policy shift because until now Mr Goff had ruled out the deployment of armed New Zealand forces in Solomon Islands despite calls by New Zealand opposition politicians and others to deploy such a force.

Mr Goff says he is extremely concerned about the deteriorating situation in the Solomons.

"We have got the situation now that when the government is known to have money, the cabinet room is surrounded by armed police officers and money is extorted from them to the point that the process of government has broken down."

Fiji says it will support Australia and New Zealand it they decide to send a security force to Solomon Islands.

Fiji's foreign minister, Kalipate Tavola, says if asked Fiji could send police or peacekeepers.

Australia's prime minister, John Howard, say it's too early to be talking about sending peacekeepers or police to Solomon Islands.

Mr Tavola says if the fact finding mission next week determines a need for a security force Fiji will support it.

We're looking at all areas of conflict. We have had policemen in the Solomons and if there is any plan we will certainly be looking at it favourably.

Kaliopate Tavola