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SYDNEY, Australia (December 17, 1999 – The National)---Independence, and not autonomy within Papua New Guinea, would be the only lasting, peaceful solution to the Bougainville problem, rebel leader Francis Ona said yesterday.

In a satellite interview from his mountain jungle hideaway, Mr. Ona expressed frustration that a two-year ceasefire and negotiations were going nowhere.

And he blamed Australia and the PNG Government for the stalemate.

"Both Australia and the Papua New Guinea Government supported East Timor's referendum," he said.

"Why won't they support a referendum in Bougainville?"

About 230 foreign soldiers and public servants -- mostly Australians -- have been on Bougainville for two years, monitoring a ceasefire reached between Mr. One’s Bougainville Revolutionary Army and the PNG Defense Force and the PNG Government.

Mr. Ona blamed both Australia and PNG for promoting reconciliation talks with Bougainville that were aimed at only one result: the island's retention as one of PNG's 19 provinces and the return of mining operations that sparked the war.

"They must allow internationally recognized ways to solve the Bougainville problem, and that should be through a referendum," he said.

"These so-called reconciliation talks are being manipulated by the PNG and Australian governments to protect their own economies."

Australian-owned CRA's Panguna copper mine on Bougainville once provided 40 percent of PNG's export income. It has laid in ruin since 1989.

"We are not being given international rights to freedom," Mr. Ona said.

"For two years now we have had a ceasefire and all they are saying is that Bougainville must go back to PNG -- that is what PNG and Australia are saying.

"We want proper independence to protect our rights and our environment.

"Without proper independence, exploitation, destruction and social problems will return. Mining will return, and that will not bring peace but only bring war."

Mr. Ona said an independent Bougainville -- his self-declared republic's name is Me'ekamui -- would not allow the return of CRA, other mining companies or Japanese logging.

"Before the war, we survived on K 23 million per year from PNG to the (Bougainville) provincial government. We can get K 50 million to K 60 million from copra and other agricultural exports.

(NOTE: 2.63157 + US$ 1.00 on December 18, 1999)

"We have paid a high price already," said Mr. Ona, whose island population of about 130,000 has lost about 10,000 people to the war and medical shortages.

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



BUKA, Papua New Guinea (December 19, 1999 – Radio Australia)---The commander of the Peace Monitoring Group on Bougainville says he is confident that the violence of the past has ended.

Radio Australia correspondent Fiona Reynolds reports that Brigadier Frank Roberts briefed Australia's Defense Minister, John Moore, on the peace process during a brief visit to the island yesterday.

"Mr. Moore was taken to the monitoring group's liaison center in Buka.

"He held private talks with the leader of the Bougainville Peoples Congress, Joseph Kabui, before receiving a report from Brigadier Roberts.

"The commanding officer says there have been no violations since of the ceasefire since it was signed in April last year. ‘There's no doubt the overwhelming desire by the people is they've had enough of the fighting and they just want to get on with life,’ he said.

"Brigadier Roberts says one of the biggest problems faced by the peace monitors is disinformation about the process.

"Fiona Reynolds, Bougainville."



PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (December 18, 1999 – Radio Australia)---Australia's Defense Minister, John Moore, has visited peace monitors on the Papua New Guinea island of Bougainville.

Australia has 250 soldiers and civilians in Bougainville as part of the peace-monitoring group.

On a stopover in Port Moresby, Mr. Moore told PNG's Defense Minister, Albert Pogo, that Australia was looking for a positive outcome to the peace process.

"We've extended the current authority to maintain forces in Bougainville until April next year," he said.

"I think it's well known that we would like to withdraw our forces from there as soon as possible, but that's not until such time as the conditions are appropriate."



PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (December 18, 1999 – Radio Australia)---Australia's Defense Minister, John Moore, has made it clear to the Papua New Guinea Government that Australia wants to withdraw its peace monitors from Bougainville.

Fiona Reynolds reports that Mr. Moore held talks with his PNG counterpart, Albert Pogo, in Port Moresby during a stopover on his way to Bougainville.

"The two defense ministers spoke of Australia's strong bilateral relationship with PNG before the conversation quickly turned to the Bougainville peace process.

"John Moore said that while the authority to maintain peace monitoring forces in Bougainville had been extended until April. Australia wanted to withdraw its 250 troops and civilians as soon as possible. But, he acknowledged the observers can't pull out until the peace process is stable.

"He said, ‘We are looking for an outcome which is satisfactory to your government. As you know Australia has got 5,400 in East Timor. The stresses and strains - there is quite a big commitment from Australia in that area.’

"PNG's Defense Minister Mr. Albert Pogo indicated that progress was being made with leaders in Bougainville, regarding the task of coming up with (an acceptable) form of government.

"Fiona Reynolds, Radio Australia."

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

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