PNG'S DEFENSE FORCE DENIES ESCALATING BOUGAINVILLE MILITARY ACTIVITIES

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (August 23, 2000 – Radio Australia)---The commander of Papua New Guinea's Defense Force has denied claims his troops are escalating activities on Bougainville.

Radio Australia correspondent Richard Dinnen reports that there is increasing tension on Bougainville as a critical deadline in political negotiations approaches.

"There have been claims the PNG Defense Force is building up its presence and rebuilding bunkers on Bougainville. But Brigadier Carl Malpo says troops are maintaining their usual defensive positions.

"An agreement on greater autonomy for Bougainville is due by mid September, but many Bougainville leaders believe the deadline will not be met.

"Some have warned there'll be a return to violence.

"Bougainville Affairs minister Sir Michael Somare has condemned calls for a return to war, saying the government is doing all it can to move the negotiation process forward. Sir Michael says he hopes legislation to deal with the autonomy issue will go to Parliament next month.

"Richard Dinnen, Radio Australia, Port Moresby

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

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