29 Oct 2003

RAMSI intervention force leader says law and order progress means forces can be reducedion

11:29 am on 29 October 2003

The Australian Government says the withdrawal of troops from Solomon Islands is possible because they had had fewer difficulties than anticipated.

About 800 Australian military personnel will be withdrawn over the next few months, while New Zealand will replace its company with a platoon.

The Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer says the mission to stabilise law and order had been extremely successful.

The RAMSI intervention force will this Friday celebrate 100 days in the Solomons and its head Nick Warner says it has built a very fair record in re-establishing law and order.

He says 3,700 guns have been removed from the community, and around 340 people have been arrested, including more than 60 militants who face dozens of charges.

"A lot of those charges are for very serious offences against people - mass murder, murder, abduction, assault. On top of that, there have been about twenty-five members of the Royal Solomon Islands Police arrested."

Nick Warner says a large number of investigations are continuing and there will be more arrests.