BOUGAINVILLE LEADERS HOPE FOR BREAKTHROUGH IN KOKOPO MEETING

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (January 23, 2001 - Post-Courier/PINA Nius Online)---Bougainville leaders are hoping for a "formal breakthrough" in the deadlocked peace talks with the National Government, which resume in Kokopo, East New Britain, this Thursday.

Their hope is based on preliminary discussions held with the government on Sohano Island two weeks ago, where Bougainville leaders expressed "quiet confidence" that they could get what they were asking for.

Administrative Secretary Francis Kabano said yesterday that the Bougainville leaders’ position on the peace talks remained unchanged in that they still wanted to talk about autonomy and a referendum on the political future of the province.

"The Bougainville leaders’ position remains unchanged -- that of the question of autonomy and a referendum on independence -- but the focus during this week’s talks will be on getting a formal breakthrough," he said.

"There was already some indication of this happening when preliminary discussions were held on Sohano two weeks ago, and they were then ‘quietly confident’ of that happening." Bougainville officials left Buka for Kokopo on a chartered aircraft yesterday afternoon to prepare the groundwork for the leaders’ meeting.

Mr. Kabano said the formal talks were tentatively set to begin on Thursday and end on Friday.

The Bougainville delegation consists of 12 officials and eight leaders, while the government delegation will consist of five leaders and 14 officials.

The Bougainville delegation will be led by Governor John Momis and Bougainville People’s Congress leader Joseph Kabui, and Central MP Sam Akoitai, while the National Government will be led by Bougainville Affairs Minister Moi Avei, Health Minister Ludger Mond, Correctional Services Minister Henry Smith, Defense Minister Kilroy Genia and Milne Bay MP Josephine Abaijah.

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

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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