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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (April 4, 2001 - Post-Courier/PINA Nius Online)---Bougainville will be given a one-time establishment grant of an unspecified amount to help kick-start the autonomous government.

This was among the financial arrangements agreed upon during talks in Port Moresby last weekend.

Bougainville team leader Joseph Kabui described the meeting as a "positive engagement."

"Better understandings have been reached, paving the way for slow progress. It’s going to require a fair bit of work," he said.

"Definitely, if the way things are progressing and maintained, we will be able to return with a document in our hands that lawyers and technocrats will need to do their job of fine-tuning before it is ready for signing."

Mr. Kabui said the talks had embarked on an ambitious schedule, which included a signing of the comprehensive agreement later this month, first reading of the necessary amendments in Parliament when it resumes in July and a final reading in either November or December.

Mr. Kabui said they hoped to have a constituent assembly established within the first half of next year and hold elections for an autonomous government at the same time as the National Elections in July.

He said all financial arrangements had been resolved, including taxation, government grants -- both conditional and recurrent grants -- and foreign aid.

Mr. Kabui said that the given the "peculiar, unique set of conditions of Bougainville," the leader of the National Government negotiating team, Moi Avei, had given an under-taking to give a one-time establishment grant to the autonomous government on Bougainville. 

Mr. Avei, Papua New Guinea's Minister for National Planning and Bougainville Affairs, said that the National Government would exercise its prerogative on the amount and whether to provide this from its coffers or through donor funding.

Mr. Avei said its purpose would be to kick-start the autonomous government.

On foreign aid, Mr. Kabui said negotiations on this with foreign governments or donors would take place under the bilateral and multilateral arrangements that Papua New Guinea has with various countries and organizations.

He said details on public service arrangements still needed to be worked out, however, agreement had been reached for Bougainville to have its own public service.

"Bougainville can have its own public service but on defense and police it’s a very sensitive area that requires further discussions alongside the Correctional Institution Services.

"The mood is very positive. We are happy that important breakthroughs have been made in the negotiations between the National Government and us.

"The talks will continue on for the next few days when we will be in some sort of clear picture on the issues."

Mr. Kabui said many of the Bougainville negotiators appreciated Mr. Avei’s personal involvement and commitment in giving Bougainville priority attention.

The talks would continue over the next few days and hopes are high for a draft comprehensive agreement to be ready before the weekend.

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: 

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