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SYDNEY, Australia (ABC News Online, June 12) - A multinational
team of civilians is to be established to help the Papua New Guinea province of
Bougainville make its transition to autonomy.

Officials said the team will take over from the Australian-led
Peace Monitoring Group (PMG) at the end of the month.

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said the decision
to establish the transition team was made because of requests from all parties
for a continued regional presence on Bougainville.

New Zealand's Foreign Minister, Phil Goff, said New Zealand,
Fiji and Vanuatu will contribute to the Australian-led team of 15 to 20 unarmed

They will replace the PMG, the joint civilian and military
operation that has been in the province since 1998.

Bougainville leaders had previously warned the group's departure
could result in a power vacuum, which could affect the peace process.

Goff said the the transitional team will provide continued
logistical support to the United Nations on Bougainville, which is responsible
for overseeing the province's weapons disposal process.

Regional monitors have been deployed on Bougainville since
November 1997.

June 13, 2003

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