13 Aug 2003

Australian newspaper says Keke to surrender

7:13 am on 13 August 2003

An Australian newspaper reports that the Solomon Islands warlord, Harold Keke, has agreed to surrender in return for a guarantee for a safe passage on to the Australian warship, the HMAS Manoora.

The paper, The Australian, says Keke is due to surrender his weapons today - a week before the amnesty for illegally owned arms ends.

The ship is reported to have left Honiara and the Australian says it is believed to have sailed for Guadalcanal's weather coast.

This coincides with the start today of the use by Australia of unmanned small surveillance aircraft.

The Australian-led intervention force has declined to give details about its two meetings with Keke in the past week and now also says Keke doesn't want media attention.

Keke, who refused to sign the Australian-brokered agreement in 2000 to end the post-coup unrest, has been blamed for dozens of recent killings.

After the meeting on Friday, the intervention force said that six hostages held by Keke were dead.