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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (September 1, 1998 - PACNEWS)--- The commander of the Peace Monitoring Group on Papua New Guinea's Bougainville island, Brigadier Bruce Osborne of Australia, says progress in the Bougainville peace process has bogged down at higher political levels.

However, he said the Papua New Guinea government's decision to withdraw military forces and the recent Pan-Bougainville leaders' congress in Buin were positive steps forward toward peace.

Brigadier Osborne made the observations in a report he presented to a meeting in Buka last week attended by representatives of the PNG government, the Bougainville Transitional Government, the secessionists, the resistance and the UN Observer Mission.

At the grassroots level, he said, the peace process was progressing well across the island and the effective establishment of peace monitoring committees in north, south and central Bougainville was a strong sign of progress.

Brigadier Osborne said both the secessionists and the security forces have continued to observe the cease-fire, although a number of unfortunate incidents, including the recent shooting at a helicopter, had occurred.

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