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By Winston Tarere

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (April 24, 2001 - Port Vila Presse/PINA Nius Online)---Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) leaders have requested assistance from the Vanuatu government to train Bougainville's new police force.

The message was conveyed to Police Commissioner Peter Bong at a meeting in a church during the Commissioner's recent visit to Arawa, one of the main centers on Bougainville.

"Part of their request was to see if some of the training could be conducted here in Vanuatu," he said.

"I assured them of our support and told them that Vanuatu is part of the Peace Monitoring Group (PMG) and that our role is to monitor and report.

"Apart from that, we cannot do anything without prior approval from the PNG government and funding and logistics support from New Zealand and Australia."

Commissioner Bong said: "This meeting was the first for me to have with leaders from all elements of the BRA. I had only met with individual leaders during my last two visits to Bougainville.

"They asked me to convey their appreciation to the government and asked that we should not reduce our presence in Arawa."

Seven Vanuatu force members were deployed in Bougainville as part of efforts to help the peace process that ended the secessionist war between the Bougainvilleans and Papua New Guinea forces.

The Commissioner indicated to Port Vila Presse that the number could be reduced to four as the Bougainvilleans get more involved in the process.

"The ex-combatants also requested that the government send representatives to future peace talks and are seeking the possibility of Vanuatu hosting some of the talks."

The Commissioner said he had assured them that he will take their request and pass it on to the government and that they will get a response through the Peace Monitoring Group Commander in Arawa.

Commissioner Bong also announced that he will be leaving the force after his contract ends.

He said: "I have declared publicly to my senior ranking officers and members of the force on peacekeeping duties in East Timor and Bougainville to apply for the post because I won't be contesting it.

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