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SOLOMON IS: PM agrees to resign in 'copy-cat' coup

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* See Nius item 2755

By Harry Aurere

SUVA: Solomon Islands Prime Minister Bartholomew Ulufa'alu has today agreed to resign in what is being described as a "copy-cat coup" following the two-week-old Fiji insurrection, according to reports reaching here.

Mediator Andrew Nori, a prominent lawyer, said the priority of the upheaval had been to seek the prime minister's voluntary resignation, reports the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation.

He said the armed revolt was the result of the "failure" of the government to "positively address" the current ethnic crisis.

He added that the situation would be normal by later today or tomorrow.

A group comprising the self-styled Malaita Eagle Force, police and the prison officers took control of the police armoury and the Solomon Islands Telecommunications.

The prime minister was seized and held hostage from 6am.

International telecommunication links were severed.

"The Malaita Eagle Force carried out a joint operation, took weapons from the main police armoury in Rove, the patrol boat base, and all Honiara police stations - thus securing 98 per cent of the arms in the country," said Nori.

Pacnews reported that the Solomon Islands capital was "calm but confused".

The group had threatened to shoot looters and rioters in Honiara. Shops and offices were heavily guarded by the coup members.

The group's demands were the removal of Prime Minister Ulufa'alu and the police commissioner, who is currently out of the country.

There has been ongoing unrest in the Solomon Islands involving the Malaita Eagle Force and the Isatabu Freedom Fighters for the past 18 months. An estimated 50 people have been killed in during the ongoing clashes.

Nori blamed the action on local radio on: "Loss of control by police over the security situation in Honiara, criminal elements taking advantage of MEF operations, failure to respect MEF guidelines for a ceasefire and the IMF not responding to ceasefire.

"The IMF brought 1000 youths to Tenaru area last week and were making new demands.

"Problems in Western province last week would possibly lead to more violence. The government is incapable of preventing this violence. More Malaita youths are moving to Honiara to join MEF," said Nori.

Honiara's mayor, Ronald Fugui, warned people in the capital, saying the action posed a serious security threat to all residents.

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