21 Dec 2002

PNG soldiers to leave Bougainville in two weeks

9:39 am on 21 December 2002

The commander of the Papua New Guinea defence force, Brigadier-General Peter Ilau, says the remaining ten soldiers stationed on Bougainville are to be withdrawn within two weeks.

He says the decision was reached after discussions with various national and provincial authorities.

Brigadier-General Ilau says the government had monitored the disarmament programme and he believed the island was now headed for autonomy.

The withdrawal of the PNGDF has also been discussed with the Bougainville Revolutionary Army, the resistance and Bougainville political leaders.

The pull-out was planned for earlier this year but the government then decided to keep the troops on the island.

The Post Courier newspaper says some Bougainville leaders don't agree with the withdrawal.

At the height of the civil war, the PNGDF had a thousand soldiers on the island.