AUSTRALIA, PNG SAY PROGRESS MADE IN BOUGAINVILLE DISARMAMENT TALKS

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CANBERRA, Australia (February 28, 2001 – Radio Australia)---Government ministers from Australia and Papua New Guinea are emphasizing progress made during Bougainville disarmament talks, despite failure to reach agreement.

At the end of an Australia-Papua New Guinea Forum in Canberra, both countries say the fact that the former adversaries plan to continue negotiations next month is significant in itself.

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer also says Australia is supportive of the proposed Papua New Guinea-to-Queensland gas pipeline, but won't offer extra funding for the project.

Papua New Guinea Foreign Minister Bart Philemon assured the forum of his government's commitment to economic reform despite recent setbacks.

"We will not depart from that program and we have reached an understanding with the World Bank on that basis and we're happy to say that we are back on track and we will continue with the programs," he said.

 

PEACE PROCESS IN BOUGAINVILLE GIVEN CONSIDERABLE ATTENTION

CANBERRA, Australia (February 28, 2001 – Radio Australia)---The Australian government says the peace process in Bougainville is being given considerable attention at the annual Papua New Guinea- Australia Forum under way in Canberra.

The Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, told Parliament progress was made at recent talks in the northern Australian city of Townsville between Papua New Guinea delegates and Bougainville faction leaders, even though there was no final agreement.

Mr. Downer said the forum also heard of significant efforts by the Papua New Guinea Government to reform its defense force.

"This has been a good day today in Australia's relationship with Papua New Guinea," he said

"We have built strong personal links with Ministers, we've been very pleased with the progress of the Morauta government and I think Australia and Papua New Guinea can be proud of the very close relationship that they have built up in recent times."

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

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