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Last Updated: Friday, 21 April 2006, 07:18 GMT 08:18 UK
Australia beefs up Solomons force
Solomon Islander walks past a burnt out building in Honiara
It could take up to five years to rebuild Honiara, said an official
Australia is doubling the number of troops it is sending to the Solomon Islands following riots in protest over the new Prime Minister Snyder Rini.

Australian PM John Howard said a further 110 soldiers would leave on Friday at the request of commanders of the peacekeeping force deployed there.

Mr Rini has ruled out resigning, despite two days of riots that has left parts of the capital Honiara in ruins.

He denies allegations of links to widespread corruption in the past.

The streets of Honiara have remained calm despite fears of a resurgence in violence once news of Mr Rini's secret swearing-in early on Thursday became known.

A dawn-to-dusk curfew, imposed on Wednesday to end the rioting, will be reviewed on Saturday, Solomon Islands Police Commissioner Shane Castles said.

Mr Howard said, "The situation is still tense and there's still the potential for further trouble."

The extra troops will join almost 450 Australian troops and police who, along with New Zealand troops, are patrolling the streets of the South Pacific nation.

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer is due to visit the Solomon Islands on Saturday to hold talks with the new prime minister.

No-confidence vote

Announcing his new cabinet, Mr Rini, 56, insisted he would not bow to pressure to step down.

"I was elected through a democratic process and according to the country's constitution," he was quoted by the Associated Press as saying.


He also insisted he would beat any no-confidence vote put forward when parliament meets next week.

Mr Rini, the former deputy prime minister, is accused of being too closely linked to former Prime Minister Allan Kemakeza's administration, which was tainted by corruption allegations.

Demonstrators also accuse him of using money from Chinese and Taiwanese backers to bribe MPs into voting for him.

He has angrily denied the claims, saying: "I would like to challenge those who make these allegations, to take them to the police".

Chinese flee

Hundreds of people took to the streets of Honiara after Mr Rini was chosen for the premiership in a ballot by 50 newly-elected MPs on Tuesday.

Much of Honiara's Chinatown area was razed in the rioting, during which some families were forced to jump from burning buildings.

Snyder Rini
Mr Rini had to be sworn in unannounced following the protests

It could take up to five years for the city to be rebuilt, government spokesman Johnson Honimae told Reuters news agency.

"A good chunk of the government's revenue comes from the businesses that have been destroyed," he said.

Dozens of Chinese families fled their homes and are now being cared for by the local Red Cross.

China is flying in diplomats to arrange shelter for some 500 nationals, an official spokesman in Beijing said.

The violence took many surprise. Security in the Solomons archipelago had improved since the Australian-led mission arrived in 2003, after years of tribal violence had resulted in the breakdown of law and order.

The conflict - between indigenous residents of the main island of Guadalcanal and settlers from the island of Malaita - was fought over land rights and jobs.


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SEE ALSO:
In pictures: Solomons reel from riots
21 Apr 06 |  In Pictures
Fears of fresh Solomons violence
20 Apr 06 |  Asia-Pacific
In pictures: Solomon Islands riots
20 Apr 06 |  In Pictures
Foreign troops arrive in Solomons
19 Apr 06 |  Asia-Pacific
New PM chosen by Solomon Islands
18 Apr 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: Solomon Islands
24 Mar 06 |  Country profiles


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