12 Aug 2003

Intervention force declines comment on negotiations with Solomons rebel leader Keke

8:30 am on 12 August 2003

The head of the Australian-led intervention force in Solomon Islands, Nick Warner, has held further negotiations with the Guadalcanal rebel leader, Harold Keke.

Mr Warner has declined to reveal details of his talks, describing them as a sensitive and operational issue.

Less than two weeks remain before an amnesty expires for those holding on to guns illegally and it is not known how the authorities plan to deal with Keke who is seen as responsible for dozens of killings in the past years.

Yesterday's meeting followed one late last week when Mr Warner said that six members of the Melanesian Brothers who were held hostage by Keke had died.

Mr Warner also declined to say whether their reported death was discussed amid public clamour for more information on their fate.

A report by international news agencies quotes an unnamed source as saying that Keke's followers had killed the six hostages while other information on the internet quotes a contact in the Keke camp as saying that is not true.