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Ironduke
22 Aug 03,, 07:37
Solomons mission 'in danger phase'

The head of the intervention force in the Solomon Islands has warned that his mission is about to enter a more dangerous phase.
A gun amnesty expired earlier on Thursday, and the Australian-led force will now need to search for any remaining weapons.

Almost 3,000 firearms have been handed in during the three-week amnesty period, said Australian diplomat Nick Warner, but thousands of others are likely to be still at large.

Mr Warner said the Australian-led force would not hesitate to act to protect those searching for the remaining weapons.

Illegal firearms have been the focus of the multinational rescue mission in the Solomons since it began late last month.

More than 500 of the firearms which have been handed in are high-powered modern military weapons.

Ex-police guns were also surrendered, as well as grenade launchers, shotguns and about thousands of rounds of ammunition.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard is due to visit the troubled archipelago on Monday.

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Allan Kemakeza is understood to have invited Mr Howard following their discussions at the Pacific Island Forum in New Zealand last week.

The 2,200-strong intervention force - made up of personnel from Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Tonga - aims to restore peace and economic stability in the shattered South Pacific nation of 500,000 mostly Melanesian people.

The country was thrown into chaos by a conflict over land rights and jobs between rival ethnic militias.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/3170885.stm