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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (September 10, 1997 - PACNEWS)--- Rebel leader Francis Ona reportedly is still awaiting legal advice concerning the Burnham Declaration before making a decision to attend the next round of Bougainville peace talks in New Zealand.

The talks, involving other Bougainville leaders and the Papua New Guinea government, are scheduled to take place next month.

Speaking from his central Bougainville hideout, Ona told PNG's NBC News he is making arrangements for a lawyer to travel to Bougainville and, after the briefing, will decide on the validity of the Burnham Declaration, adding he will not comment on the Burnham talks, which were conducted earlier this year at a military base near Christchurch, New Zealand, until after the legal briefing.

Ona has made public his stand that independence is the ultimate goal of the Bougainville struggle.

In fact, last week, Ona said mineral-rich Bougainville now was independent, but this has not eliminated other factions' efforts to participate in continuing talks that could lead to a permanent peace on the island, which has been involved in a civil insurrection for nine years.

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