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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (October 11, 1999 The National)---Australian Prime Minister John Howard completed a two-day visit to Papua New Guinea on Friday greatly encouraged that a peace deal will be struck soon for Bougainville.

Mr. Howard also said that Australia would be pleased to keep its peace monitoring force on Bougainville.

Bougainville may be close to securing an autonomy deal with PNG, he told journalists after discussions on Thursday with Foreign Affairs Minister Sir Michael Somare, who is also charged with Bougainville Affairs.

Sir Michael returned from a two-day visit to the war-torn island on Wednesday.

"He seems optimistic that an understanding could be reached around something that preserved the integrity of PNG but gave the Bougainvilleans a reasonable degree of local autonomy, which in a way is the solution," Mr. Howard told journalists.

He told a dinner hosted by his PNG counterpart, Sir Mekere Morauta, on Thursday night, that Australia was pleased to maintain its peace monitoring force of 250 on the island in the months ahead.

"But it does seem to us, as I'm sure it does to you, that gradually you are inching towards a solution to a problem that has proved enormously costly both in human life and resources and also so far as the treasury of your own country is concerned," Mr. Howard said.

"And all friends of PNG will hope that that problem is brought to a proper end and proper fruition."

On Friday morning, Mr. Howard told a packed business breakfast that the links between Australia and Papua New Guinea were intricate and deeply felt.

"As I say, we have a long friendship, a very deep friendship in both peacetime and in war, and its no ordinary relationship," Mr. Howard told the PNG-Australia Business Council.

"It's a relationship that has particular and very close and very important characteristics."

Mr. Howard had earlier said good relations with PNG were important to Australian foreign and security policies.

He said Australia's injection of capital into PNG debt reduction was aimed at leading international confidence in PNG's future under the economic reforms of the Prime Minister Sir Mekere Morauta.

"It's meant to demonstrate to the rest of the world that Australia supports the reform program of the new government in PNG," Mr. Howard said.

"We believe that that reform program is a courageous program."

Mr. Howard flew out of here for a Liberal Party convention in Brisbane almost exactly 24 hours after he had arrived.

He maintained his schedule despite Opposition Leader Bill Skate refusing an invitation to meet at the Prime Minister's hotel.

A re-scheduled 20-minute meeting with Mr. Skate at Parliament House was Mr. Howard's last appointment.

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



PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (October 11, 1999 – Post-Courier)---Embarrassments capped off what was otherwise a successful State visit by Australian Prime Minister John Howard last week.

Mr. Howard was forced to meet Opposition Leader Bill Skate and his team at his parliament office after they refused to meet him at the Islander Hotel ballroom as scheduled on Friday morning.

Mr. Skate had claimed he was too important to be called to Mr. Howard's hotel for the meeting.

He said Mr. Howard should call on him at his parliament office, so the visiting dignitary complied.

Mr. Howard had only the previous day announced a $US 80 million facility to help our ailing economy.

A senior government official said Mr. Howard had initially offered only $US

50 million but, of his own accord, increased it by $US 30 million during a meeting with Prime Minister Sir Mekere Morauta.

There was another protocol blunder at Jackson's Airport when Mr. Howard and his party were being bid farewell.

When it became apparent that the official host of the military parade, Acting PNG Defense Force Commander Colonel Karl Malpo, was absent, Communications Minister Peter Waieng had to invite and accompany Mr. Howard to review the parade.

Colonel Malpo arrived as Mr. Howard was reviewing the parade, but did not take part.

It is understood the commander has been reprimanded for the "let-down.''

Prime Minister Morauta said Papua New Guineans had been given a chance by their Australian friends.

Speaking at a State dinner he hosted for Mr. Howard on Thursday night, Sir Mekere said Australia's significant financial assistance announced that day gave PNG a chance to maintain, and periodically strengthen the democratic institutions and traditions, which the two countries share.

It was also a chance to maintain peace, order and good government, a chance to raise the health, education and living standards of the people, Sir Mekere said.

"Papua New Guineans know that sometimes we could have made more of our chances. But our story is not without achievements, nor its heroines and heroes,'' he said.

Sir Mekere said his government's reconstruction and development would strengthen the efforts of those committed to development in the country. This would be done more effectively with Australia's continuing assistance.

"Papua New Guinea looks forward to working with Australia to make the best possible use of development assistance under the new aid treaty,'' he said.

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

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