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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (December 30, 1999 – Post-Courier)---Minister for Bougainville Affairs Sir Michael Somare has praised Bougainville leaders for coming together to develop a common position paper to government before Christmas.

Sir Michael made the comments when he presented to Cabinet the Hutjena Record, which the leaders signed recently as the official record of the agreements reached.

In briefing Cabinet, Sir Michael said, "I am pleased and impressed with the way in which Bougainville leaders have met the challenge I made last November for them to come together and develop a common position to present to the National Government before Christmas.''

The key elements of the Hutjena Record include an agreement to negotiate over the highest level of autonomy for Bougainville.

Sir Michael emphasized that like everything else in the joint Bougainville negotiating position and the Hutjena Record, the National Government's response would be subject to Cabinet approval and the Parliament's willingness to support appropriate legislation.

"As I have said before, the Constitution of PNG does not currently provide for a referendum.

"Successive governments and leaders of all major political parties and groups in the national parliament have repeatedly said that a separate independence for Bougainville is not a real option.''

He said that the Government was ready to consult and cooperate with the Bougainvilleans in developing a workable autonomy package within the framework of the PNG Constitution.

He appealed to the Bougainville leaders to be realistic and honest with their people.

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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