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Date: Tue, 18 Nov 1997 01:31:24 -0500
Sender: Southeast Asia Discussion List <SEASIA-L@msu.edu>
Subject: Fwd: PNG: Unarmed Pacific peace force due in Bougainville (StraitsTimes)
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Unarmed Pacific peace force due in Bougainville

Agence France-Press,
in Singapore Straits Times
18 November 1997

WELLINGTON -- An unarmed Pacific peacekeeping force will begin arriving on the war-torn Papua New Guinean island of Bougainville within days as a truce takes effect to end a decade-long civil war, New Zealand Foreign Minister Don McKinnon said yesterday.

Meanwhile, PNG Prime Minister Bill Skate said in Port Moresby that his Cabinet had approved the deployment of the force.

Mr Skate said that there had been a "tremendous relaxation of restrictions", particularly with regards to travel to and from government and rebel-controlled areas, since a ceasefire was agreed upon on Oct 10.

However, he added that the "presence of monitors is justified" by the "tensions and distrust between the combatants" in Central, South and North West Bougainville.

The truce-monitoring force was agreed upon by Mr McKinnon and PNG's Minister of Bougainville Affairs Sam Akoitai.

The bulk of the Truce Monitoring Group, which include Australians, Tongans, Fijians and ni-Vanuatu forces, will be led by New Zealand soldiers.

In addition, the force of up to 260 soldiers will be rotated, with 150 truce-monitors on the island at any one time.

"As a neutral body, the truce-monitors will help to reduce tension on the island between the different groups, build trust and discourage potential breaches of the Burnham Truce," Mr McKinnon said.

Since 1988, the Bougainville Interim Government (BIG) and its military arm the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) have been fighting for the independence of the 10,660 sq km island, home to 160,000 people.

They also demanded US$11.3 billion (S$18 billion) compensation for the "environmental, social and land destruction and chemical pollution" caused by the Panguna copper mine in the centre of the island.

The latest move follows a New Zealand engineered breakthrough in a deadly stalemate which saw a major crisis build around the arrival of South African and British mercenaries on Bougainville early this year.

When the presence of the mercenaries was revealed, PNG troops staged a rebellion and brought down the government of then Prime Minister Sir Julius Chan.

Following the crisis, New Zealand brought the parties involved together to Burnham Military Camp in July to discuss a ceasefire. After the talks, a New Zealand navy frigate then delivered the rebels back to Bougainville.

The sides returned to Burnham in late September and agreed on a truce ahead of a formal meeting of leaders to be held by the end of January next year.

Meanwhile, Mr Skate also said in his statement that the sides would meet tomorrow in Cairns, Australia.

-- AFP.

Copyright =A9 1997 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. All rights reserved.

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