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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (July 29, 1997 - PACNEWS)---The Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, Bill Skate, has directed that all charges against PNG Defense Force personnel involved in the Sandline mercenary crisis be withheld pending a new inquiry into the affair.

The Prime Minister's announcement --and the release from house arrest of the Commander of the Defense Force, Brigadier General Leo Nuia-- followed a meeting Monday among parties to the dispute.

Reports from Port Moresby say the action has defused tension in the capital.

Earlier, armed soldiers from the Defense Force had released, from the main Boroko police cell complex, the officer who was in charge of the operation to expel the Sandline African mercenaries last March, Major Walter Enuma.

He was arrested by Port Moresby police last weekend, and was being held in custody for a planned court appearance.

When released by the soldiers from imprisonment, Enuma was taken to the PNG Defense Force headquarters at Murray Barracks, where the troops then put the new commander, Brigadier General Leo Nuia, under house arrest.

The former Commander of the Defense Force, Brigadier General Jerry Singirok, was due to be arrested by police in Port Moresby Tuesday, and to be charged with sedition. Singirok was dismissed by former Prime Minister Sir Julius Chan over the general's opposition to the mercenary contract.

Now, all charges against Defense Force soldiers, including those against Singirok, are being withheld, pending a further inquiry into the Sandline mercenary affair.

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