AUSTRALIA’S FOREIGN MINISTER MEETS BOUGAINVILLE REBELS

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (January 4, 1998 - Radio Australia)--- Australia's Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, following an historic New Year’s meeting on Bougainville with two key rebel leaders, says Australians involved in the truce monitoring force on the embattled Papua New Guinea island might stay longer than the planned end of January.

Downer met with Joseph Kabui, Chairman of the secessionist Bougainville Interim Government, and Sam Kauona, Military Commander of the Bougainville Revolutionary Army.

After the meeting, according to Radio Australia correspondent Sean Dorney, Kabui said the coming leaders’ meeting in Christchurch, New Zealand between PNG's Prime Minister Bill Skate and Bougainville leaders is just another step in the process towards a lasting peace, adding that there are no quick fix solutions for Bougainville.

Downer, however, was more positive about the meeting, saying that if the leaders’ meeting in New Zealand requests a continuation of the multi-nation Truce Monitoring Group, Australia will react positively.

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