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More than 90% of the islanders are ethnic Melanesians but there has been intense and bitter rivalry between the Isatabus on Guadalcanal the largest island and migrant Malaitans from the neighbouring island.
Fighting broke out in 1998 when the Isatabu Freedom Movement began to force Malaitans out accusing them of taking land and jobs. Around 20,000 people abandoned their homes with many subsequently leaving Guadalcanal.
Politics: PM Manasseh Sogavare was forced to step down in December 2007 after losing a vote of confidence
International: Australia leads a mission which aims to ensure security; the force arrived in 2003 when violence between ethnic militias threatened to spiral into anarchy
A rival militia group the Malaitan Eagle Force staged a coup in June 2000 and forced the then prime minister to resign saying he had failed to deal with the crisis which had left up to 100 dead.
An Australian-brokered peace deal was signed in October 2000. But lawlessness continued and an Australian-led peacekeeping force arrived in July 2003.
The force arrested many rebel commanders collected thousands of illegally-held weapons and oversaw a slow return to order.
The Australian intervention also provided for the appointment of foreign nationals to government posts and included financial assistance; Canberra says it aims to make the country self-sustaining.
But prosperity is elusive. Civil war left the country almost bankrupt and post-election riots in April 2006 sent some of the advances made since 2003 up in smoke.
The economy relies heavily on timber exports which are vulnerable to price fluctuations. Economic hopes have been pinned on the resumption of palm oil production and gold mining.
The Solomon Islands chain consists of several large volcanic islands to the south-east of Papua New Guinea as well as outlying islands and atolls. The terrain is mountainous and heavily forested.
During World War II the island of Guadalcanal saw some of the fiercest fighting in the Pacific theatre as the US battled to wrest control of the territory from Japanese occupiers.
Solomon Islands children too were witnesses to the violence that saw 100.
Head of state: Queen Elizabeth II represented by Governor-General Nathaniel Waena
Prime minister: Derek Sikua
The Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation (SIBC) operates a public radio service. A high rate of illiteracy means that the SIBC has more influence than the press.
In 2004 the media rights body Reporters Without Borders said the Australian-led mission to restore order had improved working conditions for local journalists. Militia leaders who had threatened the press had been jailed it added.
The Australian government has donated equipment to SIBC and has sponsored programmes aimed at promoting peace. Taiwan has also granted technical aid.
Solomon Times Online - news website
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