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MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, April 24) - The
Australian government says the disposal of weapons on the troubled island of
Bougainville has exceeded the 1,800 mark - with more than 90 percent of all
firearms now secure.

The Australian Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, says the
continuing success of the operation will probably mean that Australian
peacekeeping troops will be able to be withdrawn from Bougainville on schedule
on June 30.

However, Downer says he cannot rule out some Australian
involvement in the peace monitoring process beyond the end of June

"The disarmament process has been very successful in
Bougainville, let's not underestimate that," Downer said "It's
estimated that about 91 percent of weapons have now been collected in
Bougainville and containerized. We hope that the United Nations official in
Bougainville, Sinclair, will sign off on this weapons collection process fairly
soon - and I think once that's happened then the role of the peace monitoring
group will be substantially less significant than it's been in the past."

April 24, 2003

Radio Australia:

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