19 Jul 2003

Australian govt applying final touches to intervention force

9:28 am on 19 July 2003

The Australian Government says the first police and military elements of the Australian-led Solomon Islands intervention force are likely to be deployed next Thursday.

The Defence Minister Robert Hill said the landing ship HMAS Manoora would leave Townsville on Monday in preparation for the deployment.

The announcement follows the passage of legislation through the Solomons parliament creating a legal basis for the mission to restore law and order in the Pacific nation.

The Australian government has yet to give the final go-ahead for the operation, tipped to involve up to 1,500 Australian troops and logistics personnel and up to 300 police.

Also involved will be elements from New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Tonga and Fiji.

The final green light will come at a meeting of the Cabinet national security committee in Canberra on Tuesday.

That will also determine the rules of engagement which stipulate under what circumstances police and troops may open fire.

Senator Hill said the training, already underway in Townsville, will ensure that all the Pacific contingents are well-prepared to work together.