SKATE PRAISES ULUFA'ALU FOR DIVERTING ARMS CACHE

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (January 30, 1998 - Niuswire/The National)---Prime Minister Bill Skate has congratulated his Solomon Islands counterpart, Bartholomew Ulufa'alu, for ensuring the K7 million ($US 4 million) arms cache meant to meet so-called "PNG aggression" will not reach Honiara, the National reported today.

Mr. Skate said since coming into office, he and Mr. Ulufa'alu have both worked extremely hard to restore strained relations between the two countries.

"Our countries are now closer to each other than for a very long time. While there may have been differences in the past, think this was more a case of personality differences between some leaders.

"Only a lunatic could think our two Melanesian brother countries would point guns at each other.

"It was not that long ago that a mini-arms race was developing on either side of our common border. The Chan government held on to the insane idea that PNG had to escalate an arms race with our neighbors.

"They even hired Sandline, who claimed they would 'deter potential enemies such as the Solomon Islands'.

"This thinking is nonsense and there is no room for it in my Government."

Mr. Skate said the improved relations between the Solomons and Papua New Guinea were further highlighted in the joint communiqué signed in Honiara last December.

"The signing of the Memorandum of Understanding last month represents a new chapter in our bilateral relations. We reached agreement on significant shared border issues, the repatriation of refugees from Bougainville and the agreement on an aid package from Papua New Guinea to the Solomon Islands.

"I have also informed Mr. Ulufa'alu that the Government will find a suitable location for the Solomon Islands to build a mission in Port Moresby.

"At the recent Lincoln peace talks, Mr. Ulufa'alu also chaired discussions for the simple reason that he and his Government had the trust of all delegates at the talks.

"Mr. Ulufa'alu's efforts to stop these arms shipments has served to remind us of how close our brothers and sisters in the Solomon Islands are. The days of suspicion of our Solomon Islands neighbor is well and truly in the past. Melanesians live in the most beautiful region in the world with the greatest potential for a strong and prosperous future.

''Together as brothers we will provide a future for our families that is peaceful and united."

Title -- 1134 BOUGAINVILLE: PM lauds Ulufa'alu for diverting arms cache Date -- 30 January 1998 Byline – None Origin -- Niuswire Source -- The National (PNG), 30/1/98 Copyright -- The National Status -- Unabridged

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