CRITICISM OF AUSTRALIAN PNG DROUGHT RELIEF EFFORT

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CANBERRA, Australia (September 26, 1997 - Radio Australia)---The Australian government has denied that drought relief activities in Papua New Guinea are being used only to help areas near the B-H-P gold and copper mine at Ok Tedi.

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer told Parliament that food is going to the Western Province because of need, not because of the presence of the Australian-operated mine.

Downer said the aid supplies transported by the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) had been requested by PNG's Provincial Affairs Ministry.

"To suggest that the Australian government is somehow focusing on the area around the Ok Tedi mine is frankly," he said, "completely misleading. It is also not true that the RAAF is only bringing supplies to the Township of Tabubil, where the Ok Tedi mine is located."

Downer pointed out that the air force now is preparing to deliver essential medical supplies, food, and fuel to Kiunga, which is 100 kilometers from Ok Tedi.

Australia's High Commission to Papua New Guinea, David Irvine, plans to visit the affected areas.

Meantime, an Australian Emergency Management office has been set up in the PNG capital of Port Moresby to help the National Disaster Service with implementation of relief activities.

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