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CANBERRA, Australia (PNG Post-Courier, Sept. 4) Australia will
exercise its right to determine how its K600 million (A$300m) in aid to Papua
New Guinea is spent, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer declared yesterday.

PNG Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare sought to have a visit by
Mr Downer next week delayed because he said his government is being ambushed by
Australia, determined to take greater control of its aid.

But Mr Downer made no apologies for Australia’s stance.

"It’s not Papua New Guinea money and we’re entitled to
a say on how our own money is spent," Mr Downer told ABC radio. "Sir
Michael Somare has always said that he would prefer us to just provide Papua New
Guinea with budgetary aid, just to sign over a check. And as foreign minister
responsible for our aid budget, I’m not signing over a check and just handing
over money in that way to the Papua New Guinea budget. We want to make
absolutely certain that the large amount of money, the money of working
Australians, is properly spent in Papua New Guinea and of course the development
of ordinary people in Papua New Guinea."

Mr Downer said his visit was meant to be a courtesy, and when
the Australian special envoy Robert Cotton met with Somare last week, there was
no indication he was angry or unhappy with the situation.

"We want to help PNG," Downer said. "If PNG wants
to achieve appropriate levels of development and extricate itself from a
difficult economic circumstance, I think Australia is the one country that can
provide very real assistance."

Foreign Affairs Minister Sir Rabbie Namaliu, independently of Mr
Downer’s comments, indicated yesterday that the Cabinet would decide the
National Government’s response to the Australian proposals on aid on Monday.

September 4, 2003

Papua New Guinea Post-Courier:


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