Monday, July 28, 2003

Hey, remember that Australian peacekeeping mission to the Solomon Islands? It seems to be working.

HONIARA (Reuters) - Leaders of one of the Solomon Islands' warring militia said on Monday they were prepared to surrender their weapons, but wanted talks with the head of a peacekeeping force sent to restore order to the lawless nation.

Leaders of the Malaita island militia, which has controlled large parts of the capital Honiara since a police-backed coup in 2000, said they wanted a 30-day amnesty to hand in weapons.

They said the rebels planned a traditional surrender of arms to tribal priests on August 15 and invited peacekeepers to witness the hand over.

"We don't want to fight them (peacekeepers) and we can't match them," Jimmy Rasta, co-founder of the Malaita Eagle Force (MEF), told Australian radio from an island near Honiara.

"All my boys, as former MEF, they're willing wholeheartedly to give up their guns...(but) if we give up at the moment it becomes a crime," said Rasta.

He asked for a 30-day amnesty to surrender weapons, saying time was needed to gather guns from rebels on several islands.

Good to hear. Very good to hear.

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