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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (January 23, 1998 - Radio Australia)--- Plans are being made for the Australian airline Qantas to manage Port Moresby-based Air Niugini.

Papua New Guinea's Minister of Transport, Vincent Auali, said exploratory talks already have taken place with Qantas' chief executive James Strong in Sydney, during which the Australian airline was offered the contract to manage PNG's financially-strapped, ill-equipped international flag carrier.

Qantas will send a team to Port Moresby later this month, Auali said, to consult with Air Niugini officials and develop specific contract terms and conditions before Qantas announces a final decision on the management offer.

Meantime, PNG government and Air Niugini representatives continue to seek suitable partners to purchase a significant portion of the government airline's shares, as it pursues partial privatization.

Air Niugini "will always be a national flag carrier," Auali emphasized, "controlled by Papua New Guineans through the government."

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