16 Dec 2002

Bougainville leader hoping UN will stay another year

5:39 pm on 16 December 2002

A Bougainville leader says he hopes the United Nations Observer Mission will not pull out of the Papua New Guinea island despite pressure to do so from some members of the Security Council.

Joseph Kabui says he's optimistic the observers will stay another year.

Meanwhile New Zealand's Prime Minister, Helen Clark, says the Security Council is likely to agree to another year.

Mr Kabui says the continued UN presence is necessary in spite of the planned completion of Bougainville's draft constitution and stage two of weapons disposal programme by December 24th.

The UN has set December 24 th for the completion of the storage of guns surrendered by ex-combatants, and the 31st for the first reading of the draft constitution.

Joseph Kabui says the UN is needed to help facilitate dialogue with Francis Ona, the leader of the self declared independent state of Mekamui, which lies iwithin Bougainville.

"Activity that is taking place is dialogue with Francis Ona and his group. We definitely do not envisage seeing the UN peace observers pulling out.... we would rather see them to be still around until Bougainvilleans are fully satisfied that we have come up with the best possible peaceful resolution on Bougainville."

Joseph Kabui

Last month Australia said that it may recall its members of the Peace Monitoring Group due to the progress being made in establishing and maintaining peace.