24 Dec 2003

UN observer mission to PNG's Bougainville likely to be extended

2:47 pm on 24 December 2003

United Nations staff on the Papua New Guinea island of Bougainville say they expect the Security Council to extend the work of the Observer Mission.

The UN representative on Bougainville, Noel Sinclair, says he is still awaiting official notification by the council about the future of the mission.

It was to have left by now, but the PNG Government and inhabitants of the formerly strife-torn island sought an extension until after an autonomous government is established on Bougainville.

Unofficially, staff have been told that the mission is to be extended for six months but it would be downsized.

Noel Sinclair says he has heard nothing firm, which is unusual.

"I would like there to be an extension but I don't want to try to predict what the council will decide, what they will do. I understand that there were overwhelming expressions in the council in support of an extension but I don't know, I don't know how they will eventually decide."

Mr Sinclair says Australia's decision to send 230 armed police to Papua New Guinea would assist the UN's work by enhancing law and order generally.

And, he says the destruction of weapons is underway.

At least 39 weapons belonging to resistance forces will be cut up in one area alone of Buka and dumped at sea by helicopter.

This follows the destruction of weapons in Torokina yesterday, and another ceremony is scheduled for Wakunai on January 1.

2,000 weapons have been collected all over Bougainville.