Australian Diggers The Solomon Islands
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Troops, Police in Solomons Next Thursday

Friday July 18, 02:07 PM

The first police and military elements of the Australian-led Solomon Islands intervention force are likely to deploy to the strife-torn nation next Thursday, the government has announced. Defence Minister Robert Hill said the landing ship HMAS Manoora would leave Townsville on Monday in preparation for the deployment.

The announcement follows the passage of legislation through the Solomons parliament, which creates a legal basis for the mission to restore law and order in the Pacific nation.
The Australian government has yet to give the final go-ahead for the operation, tipped to involve up to 1,500 Australian troops and logistics personnel and up to 300 police. Also involved will be elements from New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Tonga and Fiji.
The final green light will come at a meeting of the Cabinet national security committee in Canberra on Tuesday. That will also determine the sensitive issue of the rules of engagement which stipulate under what circumstances police and troops may open fire. Senator Hill said preparations for the operation were now well under way. Manoora was sailing a day ahead of the official go-ahead to ensure it could be in place for the arrival by air of police and military elements that the government might decide to send to the Solomons, Senator Hill said.
Senator Hill said he expected the initial police and military elements would be in a position to deploy from next Thursday. "Australian and Pacific Island country contingents, including both police and military elements, are starting to prepare and train in Townsville for deployment once the formal approval is given," he said in a statement. "The first Pacific Island military contingent to arrive in Townsville will be from Fiji later today. Other Pacific Island contingents will follow. "This combined preparation will ensure that all contingents are well-prepared to work together to uphold the laws of the Solomon Islands and assist the Solomon Islands government and people restore stability in their country." Senator Hill said restoring law and order to the Solomon Islands was essentially a policing task. "The defence force elements from Pacific Forum countries, including Australia, would provide back-up for the police, as well as assisting with logistic support and humanitarian tasks," he said. Since the Solomons operation is foremost a policing mission, the rules of engagement are likely to be more restrictive than those which applied in East Timor.

Aussie Troops Begin Solomons' Mission

14:06 AEST Thu 24 Jul 2003

The first members of the 2,225-strong Australian-led intervention force to restore law and order in the Solomon Islands have arrived in Honiara. The first RAAF Hercules transport planes carrying police and military as part of the force arrived just after 7am local time (0600 AEST) on a clear day in the Solomons capital. Shortly after the flight landed about 20 gun-toting soldiers disembarked and took defensive positions around the aircraft but only foreign media and a gathering of local police were there to greet the arrival. The Hercules was the first of 13 scheduled flights bringing in logistics equipment, as well as police and soldiers from Australia, New Zealand and Fiji. About three hours later Australian support ship HMAS Manoora began offloading another 600 troops on historic Red Beach, about 20km from Honiara on the country's main island of Guadalcanal. Red Beach is the same strip of sand where US Marines landed in 1942 to drive out the invading Japanese.

The arrival of the intervention force came as the countries involved - Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Tonga, Papua New Guinea, Samoa and The Solomons - officially agreed to the rules of engagement in Townsville. They signed a multi-lateral agreement setting out legal responsibilities of participating countries, including the rules of engagement. A short time later Australian Prime Minister John Howard wished the Pacific troops good luck and God-speed in a formal farewell. Howard said the mission showed help was available to other Pacific countries if they needed it. He told the troops: "You have filled Australia's heart with pride and respect and admiration for the professionalism with which you carry out your work."

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