BOUGAINVILLE REVOLUTIONARY ARMY ACCEPTS AUSTRALIAN PEACE KEEPING

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CANBERRA, Australia (March 26, 1998 - PACNEWS)---The Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) will accept Australia taking over command of the peace keeping operations on Bougainville from New Zealand.

The New Zealand government says it no longer can afford to pay the rapidly increasing costs involved in leading the existing Truce Monitoring Group or the proposed peacekeeping force due to takeover April 30.

BRA spokesman Moses Havini told PACNEWS that it is very sad that New Zealand was not able to continue taking a leading role in the peace process. He said New Zealand has done a great job in getting the peace process under way and was always seen by the BRA as a more neutral party in the conflict than Australia.

In accepting Australian leadership, Havini says, the BRA would have to develop a new confidence in the Australian Defense Force, following its support for the PNG Defense Force during the decade-long Bougainville conflict. Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs Alexander Downer, added the BRA spokesman, had done a great deal to improve relations by taking a leading role in the peace process and through his visits to Bougainville.

Delegates representing the various factions in the Bougainville peace process were briefed on New Zealand's financial problems at their meeting near Canberra earlier this month.

The Papua New Guinea government has yet to endorse the change of command in the peace keeping force.

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