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SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Nov. 21) – The Fiji High Commission in Port Moresby will send a diplomat to Buka this week to assist the autonomous government in repatriating eight former Fiji soldiers.

Foreign Affairs Minister Kaliopate Tavola said that was the best the Fiji Government could do as efforts to establish communication with them proved futile. The autonomous Bougainville Government has expressed concern that the eight former Counter Revolutionary Warfare (CRW) soldiers were allegedly training militiamen on the use of high-powered weapons on the island.

The training is being conducted on the island's no-go-zone, which is occupied by followers of the late separatist leader, Francis Ona.

The Fijians have allegedly been hired by a supporter of Ona, Noah Musingku, who ran a failed pyramid scheme that scammed many islanders.

"Each time we ring, someone answers the phone and says the Fijians are not available. We can't get through to them," Mr. Tavola said.

He said two days ago, Fiji's high commissioner to Papua New Guinea, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola spoke to three Fijians who assured him they would get into a flight to Buka but that did not eventuate.

"The autonomous Bougainville Government is trying to get them out before any intervention by the central government.

"We are sending a diplomat who knows at least three Fijians to Buka to assist the officials. We won't send him to the no-go-zone." Mr. Tavola said.

He said the person answering the phone in the no-go-zone has made it difficult for authorities to speak to the men.

The Fiji high commission was working closely with the Papua New Guinea Government, police and Air Niugini in monitoring their activities.

Ratu Inoke said he has assured Bougainville that the eight were no longer members of the Fiji Military Forces and that the Fiji Government did not support their activities.

November 22, 2005

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