Sat Apr 22, 9:49 PM ET
MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Australia is sending more soldiers to the Solomon Islands, with tensions rising as parliament sits this week for the first time since post-election rioting, Defense Minister Brendan Nelson said.
Nelson said on Sunday Australia had about 300 defense personnel in the Solomon Islands, where the election of Snyder Rini as prime minister sparked two days of violent rioting and looting in the capital Honiara last week.
"This morning I have agreed to the request from defense to dispatch the airfield defense guards, that is another platoon of 25," he told Australian Broadcasting Corp. television.
"Yesterday, we dispatched HMAS Townsville from Cairns, one of our patrol boats, which will arrive in Honiara early tomorrow morning, and we would expect this week that HMAS Armidale will also arrive."
The government said on Saturday it was sending two Iroquois helicopters, along with 45 personnel from Oakey in Queensland, as well as 25 personnel from Townsville.
"We are determined to send a very strong signal to those people in the Solomon Islands that are causing unrest and have perpetrated the sort of criminal activity and behavior over the last week that we have seen, Nelson said.
The military will lock down the Solomons parliament on Monday when MPs meet for the first time since an election earlier this month, the first poll since Australian-led peacekeepers restored law and order in 2003 after violent ethnic unrest.
Opposition parties have already moved a no-confidence motion against Rini, which is due to go to a vote on Wednesday, with both sides claiming they have the numbers to be successful.
"We anticipate, of course, that tensions will rise over the next few days, not just Monday, but throughout the week with parliament resuming," Nelson said. "We are just making sure we are absolutely ready."
He said he did not anticipate that Australia would need to further bolster its presence over the next few days, but could do so if necessary.
"We will judge it on a day-to-day, week-to-week basis. We will be there at this level for at least a month," he said.