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Australia To Enter The Fray

Australian Prime Minister John Howard announced last week that his country would be leading a military intervention in the Pacific state of Solomon Islands within weeks

Up to 2,000 soldiers and police officers from Australia, New Zealand, Fiji
and Papua are expected to be deployed by the end of July under an overall
Australian command. No UN involvement is sought and Foreign Minister
Alexander Downer recently criticized past UN operations as ineffective.
Unilateral Australian action is compared here to the recent
US invasion of
Iraq without a sanction from the international community.

The Solomons are a group of some 30 islands in the South Pacific Ocean, East
of
New Guinea. The population of only 300,000 is active in agriculture. The
country became independent and joined the
British Commonwealth in 1978.
Australia maintains significant economic interests in the Solomons and the
country has certain strategic significance due to its deposits of bauxite,
phosphates and gold.

Solomon Islands collapsed into almost total anarchy in recent years, with
armed gangs and tribal warlords taking control of the territory. Government
authority all but disintegrated and most economic activity ceased. The
decision to invade may have been prompted by a recent killing of an
Australian Christian missionary murdered by tribal warriors in the Solomons.

The planned intervention marks a significant change of Australian foreign
policy, now aiming at a more active Australian role in the region.
Australian media predict the country may soon deploy more troops in the
region to protect its national interests.