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Solomons Archbishop urges warlord to surrender

Archbishop of the Solomon Islands Adrian Smith yesterday called on warlord Harold Keke to surrender after he signed a ceasefire and freed hostages ahead of the arrival of an Australian-led intervention force.

Smith called on Heke to surrender while speaking at a multi-denominational church service to mark the 25th anniversary of Solomons independence.

"I ask Harold Keke and his fighting men to listen to the cry of the whole nation: come out under the white flag," he told ABC Radio.

Heke signed a two page unilateral ceasefire declaration that made no mention of the Australian-led force which is expected to deploy this month to restore law and order to the Pacific nation.

Followers of Keke, leader of the Guadalcanal Liberation Front, have been accused in recent days of raping young girls and torturing, then beheading at least three men, before razing their entire village in his Weathercoast stronghold.

The rebel leader was in a "sound mind and genuinely wants to reconcile", but was determined to take up arms against the intervention force if it tried to hunt him down, an envoy said.

The envoy said Keke told him: "I'm willing to die. If they want to fight, I'll fight them."

The planned international intervention force of 2000 police and troops, expected to head to the nation of 450,000 by the end of July, follows years of ethnic clashes between Guadalcanal and Malaitan islanders, and a 2000 coup.

Australia and New Zealand have said Keke, accused of killing dozens of people and inciting followers to rape and torture, would have to be dealt with by the intervention force.

The Age

Solomons crisis dates back to hasty British handover (NZ Herald)
Solomons: Warlord warms to idea of ceasefire (Interview with Archbishop Adrian Smith, Radio Australia)
Islanders need help to move to peace (Archbishop Adrian Smith, Sydney Morning Herald 7/7/03)
Big trouble in little paradise called Solomons (Catholic Leader)

8 Jul 2003