30 Sep 2003

Australia's Treasurer repeats that Australia's military role in Solomon almost over

5:04 pm on 30 September 2003

The Australian Treasurer Peter Costello has today stood by his declaration that Australia's military role in Solomon Islands is almost complete.

The Prime Minister John Howard yesterday dampened hopes of the 1,500 troops returning by Christmas, saying he was reluctant to put a time on their withdrawal.

The Defence Minister Robert Hill has cautioned that it would be a mistake to presume that the troops early success in quashing the violence in the Solomons meant the soldiers could leave.

But Mr Costello denied that his expectation that the troops would return soon was at odds with the defence minister.

He says the guns have come back, Keke has effectively surrendered, and you'd have to say that the military objectives are well on the way to completion.

But Mr Costello concedes he does not know if the troops will remain deployed for another four months on top of the two months they have already spent in the bankrupt nation.