2 Jul 2003

PNG to join Solomons intervention, France to follow if asked

10:58 am on 2 July 2003

Papua New Guinea's foreign minister, Sir Rabbie Namaliu, says his Government is willing to send a team of up to 80 police, military and civilian personnel as part of the Solomon Islands intervention force for .

He says he told the region's Foreign Ministers in Sydney on Monday that PNG could provide a mobile police squad of around 33, a platoon of soldiers, plus civilian support.

However Sir Rabbie has distanced himself from a report in the PNG newspaper, the National, which claims a specially trained army unit had been offered to Australia to try and capture Harold Keke.

"That's the paper's own interpretation but the defence force does have especially trained people who can do that, specialised training and jungle warfare and that kind of thing, but I don't know at this stage whether the operation will require that sort of deal or expertise. It's really up to the Australians who are coordinating this"


Meanwhile, a French official says France could provide military forces or police to the Australian-led stabilisation force in the Solomons and would look favourably upon any invitation to contribute.

Serge Degallaix, who is a foreign affairs adviser to the French Prime Minister, says France is not reluctant to take some risks.

He says when there is a diplomatic decision discussions will have to follow with the military.

The news agency, AAP, says a senior French foreign ministry official has told it that there has not been an invitation for France yet but France is not ruling anything out.

France has military and police forces in New Caledonia.