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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (March 26, 2002 – Post-Courier)---The final phase in the enactment of the Bougainville Autonomous Government Bills is receiving strong foreign diplomatic lobby support.

Leading the support lobby are the governments of Australia and New Zealand through their respective foreign ministers.

Other foreign governments to have expressed support for the Papua New Guinea Parliament to deal conclusively and favorably with the Bougainville legislations include the United Kingdom, Fiji and the United Nations through their ambassadors and high commissioners.

Australia’s Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said in a statement: "I sincerely hope that the PNG Parliament will give strong, bipartisan support to legislation to give legal effect to the Bougainville Peace Agreement at this week’s final vote. This is a truly historic opportunity to bring to an end one of the region’s longest running conflicts and to build a peaceful and prosperous future for the people of Bougainville."

New Zealand Foreign Minister Phil Goff in a statement said: "The New Zealand Government hopes that the PNG Parliament will express its widespread support for the implementation of the Bougainville Peace Agreement (this) week."

Their comments add to United Kingdom’s call and the overwhelming concern demonstrated by diplomatic heads of Australia, New Zealand, Fiji as well as the United Nations, at a news conference with Bougainville Affairs Minister Sir Moi Avei yesterday.

"A successful vote will launch Bougainville on the final phase of its path to peace. It will signal to Bougainville and the region that the National Government (of PNG) is determined to bring peace to the province," said Mr. Downer.

"It will open the way for the people of Bougainville to establish a new autonomous Government."

He said that last January’s first and successful vote "proved to be the catalyst for one of the most significant demonstrations of weapons disposal we have ever seen in the region, with more than 920 weapons handed in to UN and Peace Monitoring Group representatives since the program began in December 2001, including 204 high-powered, military-style weapons."

"The peace process is an inspiration to the region. All parties have a vital role in demonstrating their continued commitment to a settlement. I sincerely hope the PNG Parliament will give its full and final support to the legislation and launch the peace process into its final phase," Mr. Downer said.

Mr. Goff said that advancing the Bougainville peace process has been New Zealand’s most important foreign policy engagement.

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

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