30 Sep 2003

Australian PM won't put time frame on deployment of troops in the Solomons

6:33 am on 30 September 2003

The Australian Prime Minister ,John Howard, has refused to put a time frame on when the fourteen hundred Australian troops in Solomon Islands will return home.

He says the troops will continue to do their job and the government will assess developments.

The Australian Associated Press quotes Mr Howard as saying the troops have done a great job up to date and the Government will just see how things develop.

Earlier Treasurer Peter Costello said the troops should be able to return from the Solomon Islands soon.

That prompted the Opposition Foreign Affairs spokesman to say the government can't work out whether it's "Arthur or Martha" over its Solomons policy.

Kevin Rudd says the government now has two conflicting policies on the Solomons.

He says while Mr Costello says pull the troops out, Senator Hill says keep the troops there.

Meanwhile Mr Howard says he expects there will be more Solomon Islands style interventions in the region, and he says Australia has to ensure it has the capacity to undertake them.