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By Philip Kepson

RABAUL, Papua New Guinea (October 15, 1999 – The National)--- Bougainville's warring factions -- the Laitena Council of Elders and the rebels -- have reached an understanding to promote the peace process after a war of words for almost two years.

Leaders of the two factions Joseph Kabui and Joel Banam said they have set aside their differences for the sake of working towards having a legitimate government for the people of Bougainville.

Both leaders admitted that the basis of their compromise was the Government’s announcement to allow Bougainville to acquire greater autonomy.

Mr. Banam, who has the backing of Buka chiefs, has been critical of moves by Mr. Kabui for independence for Bougainville. He said he has changed his position and will back the rebel faction for the purpose of promoting peace on Bougainville.

He said the two factions would officially hold a reconciliation ceremony this Sunday to which other conflicting factions and leaders were invited to witness.

"I am happy with the approach my group and Mr. Kabui are taking. It is all for the good of the people of Bougainville," said Mr. Banam.

Asked whether he was supporting the rebels push for independence, he said the issue of a referendum or independence was an issue that was not relevant at this stage to talk about.

"What is urgent is for Bougainville leaders is to accept the Government's decision to allow Bougainville to acquire greater autonomy. However, if there is need to support the independence move, we will talk about it later," Mr. Banam said.

Mr. Kabui said he was happy with certain leaders like Joseph Watawi who was involved in bringing the two factions together, adding that the two factions’ compromise on their position was a major step forward in the peace process.

"Our meeting on Tuesday and the position we have taken to work together is an important step in the direction towards pushing the peace process forward," Mr. Kabui said.

He said the next thing that they wanted to see happening following the reconciliation ceremony was the drafting of a constitution for the proposed (new) political arrangement (greater autonomy).

"We are waiting for our overseas based technical officers to arrive. As soon as they are on the ground, we will come up with a constitutional working committee to work on it as soon as possible," Mr. Kabui said.

Mr. Kabui, however, said the disposal of arms would not take place during the period leading to the effecting of greater autonomy, adding that they would do that only if there was a guarantee from the Government that there would be a referendum to determine whether Bougainville would go for total political independence.

"The political arrangement under greater autonomy is not going to be the final solution for the political issue," Mr. Kabui said.

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



HONIARA, Solomon Islands (October 19, 1999 – Radio Australia)---A delegation from the Solomon Islands is preparing to leave Honiara for Port Moresby for talks on issues relating to Bougainville.

On the agenda for discussion is the establishment of a Solomon Islands diplomatic mission in Port Moresby.

The Solomon Islands plans to set up its diplomatic mission in the Papua New Guinea capital by January next year.

Other issues in the talks are repatriation of Bougainvilleans living in the Solomon Islands and border management.

Also on the agenda are free trade zones, which basically need to be incorporated into a shipping arrangement.

A shippers’ conference will take place early next month to determine which ships in the Melanesian Spearhead Group will operate under the group's free trade arrangement.

For additional reports from Radio Australia, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Radio Australia.

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