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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (March 2, 1998 - Radio Australia)---The Papua New Guinea government has refused to allow Mike Foster, a special duty officer for the Bougainville Interim Government (BIG), to enter Bougainville.

In a statement from The Hague, the BIG described the decision as a step backwards for the Bougainville peace process.

Mr. Forster was scheduled to travel to Bougainville on Friday aboard a New Zealand Truce Monitoring Group aircraft to attend meetings among the different parties involved in the Bougainville uprising.

The meetings were to be a prelude to next week's formal peace talks in Australia.

As an Australian passport-holder, Mr. Forster requires a visa to enter PNG.

PNG wanted Mr. Forster to re-enter PNG in the normal way through Port Moresby, rather than directly into Bougainville which does not now have an international port of entry.

New Zealand's High Commission in Port Moresby had been told that Mr. Forster had entry documents for earlier talks in Bougainville, but these had now expired.

Last month, Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister, Bill Skate, announced at the Lincoln University peace talks in Christchurch, New Zealand that PNG officials were looking into an amnesty for those involved in the Bougainville crisis.

All Bougainvilleans who had gone overseas, he said, would be allowed to return home, including rebel chief negotiator at the Christchurch talks, Martin Miriori.

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