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Solomons in gun-destroying gesture

From CNN Correspondent Hugh Williams


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KEY INDICATORS
Name: Solomon Islands
Area: 28,450 sq km
Capital: Honiara
Population: 0.5 million (2002)
Prime Minister: Sir Allan Kemakeza
GDP: $264.0 million (2001)
Currency:  Solomons Island dollar (About 5.5 to $US)
Main industries: Agriculture, fishing, mining, forestry
Main export destination: Japan
Main import source: Australia
Source: Australian government

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (CNN) -- In a largely symbolic ceremony, the Solomon Islands' Peace Council has handed over several weapons to the administrators of the Australian-led intervention force, which recently arrived to try to restore order after years of lawlessness.

The 25 high-powered homemade weapons were destroyed after the ceremony Saturday, which officials said is a good first step in getting the guns off the streets.

The advance team of the intervention force -- consisting of troops from Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and other South Pacific states -- arrived Thursday.

The deployment, which will eventually number more than 2,000 strong and will include police and civil administrators, is the largest to the South Pacific since World War Two.

The operation is called "Helpem Fren," a phrase coming from the pidgin English spoken in the islands.

The mission is to help restore law and order, which has been lacking in the Solomon Islands since unrest began in 1998 between armed militants and rival gangs.

The force will remain in the Solomons until the local police can again assert control and government structures and legal systems are operating effectively.

The Solomons are a chain of almost 1,000 mountain islands and coral atolls 2,250 kilometers (1,400 miles) northeast of Sydney, Australia.


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