By Thomas Kilala

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (July 6, 2001 – The National)---The Bougainville Assembly has urged the Government to make sure the ceremonial signing of the final version of the Agreement proceeds in Bougainville next week.

A combined Bougainville Assembly that comprises of over 100 elected and nominated members who met at Hutjena High School on Wednesday endorsed the draft agreement for a comprehensive political settlement of the Bougainville conflict.

The joint assembly is made up of the 36 members of the interim Bougainville Provincial Government and the 106 members of the Bougainville People's Congress.

Bougainville Affairs Minister Moi Avei and Bougainville leaders initiated the draft agreement in Port Moresby two weeks ago.

The Agreement covers three main subjects; a deferred referendum on independence; autonomy and weapons disposal; and other issues such as reconciliation, granting of immunity from prosecution and of pardon to people who committed crimes during the conflict and restoration and development.

Speaking on behalf of the Joint Assembly, Deputy Governor Gerard Sinato and Bougainville People's Congress President Joseph Kabui said yesterday that Bougainville leaders passed a resolution endorsing the draft comprehensive political agreement and also agreed that it provided a good basis for finally ending the Bougainville conflict that began in 1988.

The two leaders added that the draft agreement was also being considered by the National Executive Council and further said that the Joint Assembly had expressed its strong hope that the NEC would also endorse the daft agreement.

"This draft agreement offers all off us an historic chance to end the worst internal conflict experienced, not just in PNG, but also the whole Pacific," they said.

"More importantly, the possibility of secure and peaceful futures for Bougainville and for PNG as a whole depend on this agreement being approved."

They also said that some leaders were not entirely happy and argued that Bougainville had compromised too much and that the referendum was delayed for too long with the autonomy proposals too weak.

"We explained to the Assembly that the draft Agreement is not a Bougainville position paper, it is a compromise between the positions of the National Government and Bougainville to reach an acceptable compromise.

"Both sides had to modify their initial positions," the two leaders said

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

Provided by Vikki John ( VIKKI@law.uts.edu.au

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