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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (August 4, 1999 - The National)---The Cabinet has authorized the creation a new Bougainville Peace and Restoration Office.

Prime Minister Sir Mekere Morauta said the office will come directly under him and will be run by Director Bill Dihm, an official who "has played a key role in the Bougainville peace process while serving previous Governments in various senior positions.

"The government has decided to set up the new office as part of its commitment to continue working for lasting peace by peaceful means," the Prime Minister said in a statement.

The Office will focus directly on the progressive political settlement in Bougainville to bring an orderly return to normalcy.

It will coordinate the activities of various Government agencies, foreign aid donors and non-governmental organizations at the national level, while working closely with leaders on the ground to make sure that restoration and development are responsive to local conditions and needs.

While adopting a bipartisan approach toward helping to consolidate peace, the Office will also play a major role in following up on existing agreements and making sure that the peace process maintains momentum and steam rolls ahead, according to Sir Mekere.

"The decision to establish the office directly under me follows from the commitment I made in my acceptance speech on July 14 that my government will give the Bougainville peace process top priority.

"The appointment of Mr. Dihm as director will help us build on the previous government's achievements."

"The Office's first assignment will be to assist Cabinet in taking stock of progress to date, identifying outstanding issues and mapping the way ahead. I also expect it to play a key role in preparing for my visit to Bougainville after the August session of Parliament," said Sir Mekere.

Meanwhile, chiefs in the South Bougainville Electorate called on the Prime Minister to allocate the Bougainville Affairs portfolio to their member, Michael Laimo.

They noted that Laimo had served as a provincial member in the former North Solomons Provincial Government and thus has the experience required.

The chiefs were speaking from Buka and represent the Wisai, Buin, Siwai, Nagois and Torokina areas, which make up the South Bougainville electorate.

They include Kaleva Aitau of Wisai, Thomas Babakumi (Nagoris), Here Potunga (Siwai), William Buremai (Torokina), Dominic Berokana (Baubake), AloysiusBarou (Lenoke), Andrew Makui, Joseph Kauri and Mark Peni (Lugakei) John Korake (Konnou) and Joseph Parum (Makes).

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

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