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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 July, 2003, 08:13 GMT 09:13 UK
Solomons peace force approved
Militiaman in the Solomon Islands
The Solomons have been destabilised by civil war
The Solomon Islands parliament has passed a law to allow the deployment of a intervention force of Australian-led troops and police.

The legislation defines the terms of engagement for 2,000 military, police and civilian personnel from Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and other Pacific countries who are now expected to be sent to the Solomons, which has been subject to years of ethnic clashes and a coup three years ago.

The motion gives the foreign troops the right to use reasonable force, as well as immunity from prosecution in relation to action taken in the course of their duties.

It follows legislation passed unanimously last week inviting the force into the country.

The peacekeeping force is expected to arrive on the islands as soon as next week.

Prime Minister Allan Kemakeza had urged parliament to back the legislation, saying the 2,000-strong force would be "a compass" to guide his country.

Foreign Minister Laurie Chan told delegates on Wednesday that he expected the first deployment of foreign troops to arrive in the country as early as 24 July.

He also said that foreign intelligence officers were already operating in the Solomon Islands.

Lawlessness and corruption

The BBC's Phil Mercer says that the peacekeepers' first task will be to disarm militias in the capital, Honiara.

They would then be expected to fan out to secure the provinces.

The Solomon Islands has been in chaos since the end of an ethnic war three years ago.

Lawlessness and corruption are rife, and dozens of people have been murdered by armed gangs so far this year.

Australia has promised to send at least 1,500 police, troops and civilian administrators, as well as a navy command ship, to the islands.

New Zealand has committed 140 police and troops, as well as four helicopters, support staff and a small medical team.

Tonga, Fiji, Samoa and Papua New Guinea have also agreed to contribute to the force.

Mr Kemakeza said on Tuesday that the islands had nothing to fear from the military operation.

"We will be welcoming hundreds of our regional neighbours who are coming to help us, not harm us," he said, according to Reuters news agency.

"They are not coming to take over the country," he added.

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