Archbishop of Canterbury arrives in troubled Solomon Islands

The head of the worldwide Anglican Church, the Archbishop of Canterbury, arrived in the troubled Solomon Islands to visit the graves of seven religious order brothers killed in unrest last year.

The Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation reported Rowan Williams arrived from Australia to a welcome from thousands of school children, church dignitaries and members of the predominant Anglican Church of Melanesia.

Members of the Anglican Melanesian Brothers sang to welcome the Anglican head and Williams was accompanied through rows of flag-waving school children.

His first scheduled event was for a nationally broadcast liturgical service later Monday.

Saturday will mark the first anniversary of a military and police intervention in this archipelago of 500,000 people lying 2,575 kilometres (1,600 miles) east of Australia.

From 1999 the country suffered an ethnic conflict which nearly bankrupted the state.

At its worst a rebel leader, Harold Keke, took over much of the southern coast of the main island of Guadalcanal.

He claimed he personally killed the Melanesian Brothers and a cabinet minister, Augustine Geve, who was also an Anglican priest.

The brothers had tried to negotiate a peace with Keke but he kidnapped and killed them, claiming they were government agents.

Keke is in custody facing 22 murder charges.

Williams will spend eight days in the Solomons and neighbouring Vanuatu.

"Although this may be the smallest province in our communion, its devotion to the faith is unquestioned," Williams said in a statement before leaving London.

"Its commitment to the difficult work of peace-making and reconciliation in the recent past has been a shining example of the light of Christ shining in the darkness."