PNG PM SKATE BUILDING BOUGAINVILLE BRIDGES

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (February 16, 1998 - PACNEWS)---The priority on Bougainville before the next round of leaders' talks is to restore essential services, says Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Bill Skate.

He made the comment after a visit to the mineral-rich island Saturday where he met with secessionist leader Joseph Kabui, the Post-Courier reports.

Skate, accompanied by Bougainville Affairs Minister Sam Akoitai and Bougainville Premier Gerard Sinato, met with Kabui for several hours at the secessionist leader's remote rural home before returning to Port Moresby in the evening.

After the meeting, Skate said it was important that before the next round of formal peace talks, scheduled for April, services such as banking be restored and that there be a major effort to repair roads in Central Bougainville.

The Prime Minister said this week he will instruct the heads of the PNG departments of agriculture, transport, forestry, communication and finance to send representatives to Bougainville, to meet with the people and determine their priority needs.

Kabui described the meeting as one of continuing to "build confidence and trust between leaders."

Skate was in Bougainville the previous weekend on a similar mission.

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