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CANBERRA, Australia (October 17, 1997 - PACNEWS)---Australia is still holding military equipment that was originally bound for the aborted Papua New Guinea mercenary operation on Bougainville more than six months ago.

Four Russian-built helicopters, weapons and ammunition are among the items being stored under guard at the Tindal Air Force Base in the Northern Territory.

An Australian Defense Force spokesman said the PNG government had recently sought Australia's help in obtaining an independent valuation of the military equipment. Australia had provided the name of a consultant, he said and it now is up to the PNG government to decide whether it should go ahead with the valuation.

Ownership of the arms shipment is still an issue between the PNG government and Sandline, the supplying organization. Final resolution of the problem could involve lengthy litigation, the spokesman noted.

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