PNG GOVERNMENT COMMITTED TO BOUGAINVILLE PEACE PROCESS: AKOITAI

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (December 11, 1998 - The National)---Bougainville Affairs Minister Sam Akoitai said the Government fully supported the establishment of the reconciliation government there, but it must be a body which meets the wishes of the people of Bougainville and is acceptable to the National Government within the framework of national law.

"Bougainvillean leaders should have no doubt about the Government's determination to honor every aspect of the Lincoln Agreement," Mr. Akoitai told Bougainville leaders when he met them in Arawa.

"The Government will take a positive, forward-looking and practical approach when working with the other parties involved in the peace process to set up the Bougainville Reconciliation Government by the agreed date of January 1, 1999.

"We appeal to them not to posture politically but to cooperate in giving effect to our shared plans to set up a functioning Bougainville Reconciliation Government by the beginning of 1999."

Speaking after his return from Arawa, the Minister welcomed the continuing commitment to the peace process and the Lincoln Agreement contained in the joint communiqué issued at the Arawa leaders' meeting.

"As I said immediately after the Opposition failed to honor its agreement to support proposals to provide a legal basis for the Bougainville Reconciliation Government, I believe that the Bougainville Reconciliation Government must go ahead," said Mr. Akoitai.

"I am pleased to see that other Bougainvillean leaders agree."

The Minister said "the outcome of the Arawa meeting contains many positive elements including the statement that all parties involved in the peace process will uphold and protect the terms of the cease-fire and continue to maintain openness, transparency and consultation with the Government.

"There is nothing surprising in their statement that Bougainville should remain outside the provincial government reforms," he said.

"The challenge for the Government is to show the way forward. I am confident that we can."

For additional reports from The National, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The National (Papua New Guinea).

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