By MARY-LOUISE OCALLAGHAN
HONIARA - The Australian Prime Minister, John Howard is considering armed intervention in the Solomon Islands amid growing concerns over the deteriorating security situation in the troubled South Pacific state.
Solomon Islands Prime Minister, Allan Kemakeza, is expected to make the case for the first major armed intervention by an Australian Government in the South Pacific region since World War II when he meets with Howard in Canberra today.
Intent on refocusing the post-Iraq security agenda closer to home, Howard has signalled he is willing to give serious consideration to such a request.
Yesterday he dispatched his RAAF VIP jet to Honiara to collect Sir Allan and his high level delegation for today's crisis talks.
It is understood Canberra is closely consulting the Clark Government on what would be a radical departure from the two countries' previous hands-off approach to the crisis. Options that have been considered by the NSC range from full scale military intervention on the East Timor model through to provision of a multilateral police force largely funded by Australia.
While the military option has largely been ruled out the case for an armed police force remains strong.
The Australian Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer confirmed that today's talks have been prompted by both Governments' concerns over the declining security situation in Solomon Islands.
Today's talks would focus on what "further action countries in the region, including Australia, can do to help the Solomon Islands," he told Parliament yesterday. Any intervention would have to come at the explicit request of the Solomon Islands Government, he said.
Broad and bipartisan support for intervention would need to be established in Solomon Islands as well as a commitment by the Solomon Islands authorities to good governance before the federal Cabinet would be willing to commitment itself to on the ground intervention.