BOUGAINVILLE TALKS CONFIRMED TO BE AT BUKA, FROM MONDAY

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (March 3, 2000 – Post-Courier)---The next round of talks between the National Government and Bougainville leaders will go ahead as scheduled from Monday to Wednesday on Buka, it was confirmed yesterday.

The Office of Bougainville Affairs confirmed that the talks would go ahead despite fears that they would be cancelled, as some leaders in both camps would be attending a conference on autonomy in Australia.

Bougainville Peoples Congress President Joseph Kabui had raised concern that the meeting might be cancelled, saying the Darwin seminar on autonomy should not be used as an excuse. Mr. Kabui said a full quorum of the Congress was meeting on Buka this weekend as a lead up to the talks.

Bougainville Affairs Minister Sir Michael Somare confirmed the dates, saying it was agreed by all parties and would be held at a mutual location, on Buka Island.

Sir Michael, who is also Chairman of the National Committee on Bougainville, said issues to be discussed were very sensitive and of great significance. That was why a place such as Buka would provide for everyone to speak freely without threat or fear.

"Following careful consideration of other prior commitments and alternate proposals, the need to report to Cabinet as well as the practical arrangements which has to be made in advance, we have agreed to meet in Buka.

"Bougainville leaders prefer to meet at Buka and my fellow committee members have agreed and that we meet on the 6th to 8th March.

"The National Committee on Bougainville is working carefully through the issues raised by Bougainville leaders last December as the upcoming talks are very important to Bougainville and the rest of the country.

"The Government is committed to peace by peaceful means with a view to find a progressive political settlement in the best interest of Bougainville and Papua New Guinea. The political talks provide a forum in which leaders can work together to come up with a set of agreed, permanent arrangements.''

Sir Michael said the membership and active involvement of senior government ministers and members of other political parties meant that the National Committee was well placed to take into account the issues affecting all major sectors of government policy activity.

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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