BOUGAINVILLE LEADERS WANT K 2MILLION FOR TALKS, SAYS SOMARE

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By Harlyne Joku

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (November 23, 1999 – The National)---Bougainville leaders have called on the government to provide K 2 million (US$ 0.7 million) in funding to facilitate negotiations for an autonomous government.

Bougainville Affairs Minister Sir Michael Somare said the request for funding was made in a resolution presented to him at a meeting in Buka last Wednesday.

He said an agreement for an autonomous government for Bougainville was reached between himself and the leaders at the meeting.

The meeting also resolved that all Bougainville parties identify and agree upon a negotiating team.

The agreement will be presented to Parliament when it meets on November 30, Sir Michael, who is also the Foreign Affairs Minister, said.

He said he would also set the date for the first leaders meeting to discuss the political framework and the composition of the negotiating team.

"If we get things right, we will build on the understanding and support for the legislation to implement the agreement on the political issue," Sir Michael said.

He added that he is pleased that the four Bougainville MPs and other leaders on the island have responded positively to his challenge to unite and work together for a common course for Bougainville.

Sir Michael had issued the challenge during his first visit to the island last month.

The leaders have since come up with a timeframe of planned activities leading towards the establishment of the autonomous government.

Sir Michael said he would maintain consultations with the four MPs and other leaders to provide political direction and keep the machinery of the government moving.

At a press conference on Thursday, Sir Michael said the question of a referendum for Bougainville was raised at the meeting by the Bougainville People's Congress, but he had made it clear that the Constitution did not allow for a referendum.

He added that discussions on other issues, including weapons disposal and restoration of a civil authority, will continue to provide the foundation for a democratic outcome.

(SEE: Somare Says No To Bougainville Referendum at http://pidp.ewc.hawaii.edu/PIReport/1999/November/11-19-up2.htm and Somare’s Statement On Bougainville Referendum Misleading And Mischievous at http://pidp.ewc.hawaii.edu/PIReport/1999/November/11-22-20.htm.)

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

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