N. Zealand To Help Solomon Islands
Jun. 29, 1999
HONIARA, Solomon Islands (AP) _ Government officials in the Solomon Islands agreed to a plan Monday aimed at ending a series of violent clashes between ethnic groups.
The officials must now convince the warring faction to sign the pact, New Zealand's High Commissioner Nick Hurley said Tuesday in announcing the plan.
A group calling itself the Isiantabu Freedom Fighters have been leading a campaign to drive settlers from the northern Malaita island off the island of Guadalcanal, where the Solomons capital of Honiara is located.
Hurley said the accord, brokered with New Zealand's help, had been signed by representatives of the Guadalcanal province, the Malaita province and the Pacific Island nation' central government.
``There's still the question of whether the militants will abide by the agreement,'' said Hurley.
A backwater since American and Japanese troops fought each other in the archipelago in World War II, the Solomons are wracked by increasingly bitter land feuds.
A state of emergency was declared nearly three weeks ago on Guadalcanal, the largest of the Solomon's about 800 islands, after fighting between ethnic groups left at least four dead and forced thousands from their homes.
Last week the Solomon Islands asked the New Zealand government for assistance in disarming the militants.
The tensions mainly involve Guadalcanal natives and people from Malaita, an island 60 miles across Iron Bottom Sound, the underwater graveyard of more than 40 U.S. and Japanese warships from World War II.
Malaitan migrants to Guadalcanal now dominate government jobs and business in Honiara.