20 Oct 2004

UN doubts Bougainville weapons smuggling reports

2:32 pm on 20 October 2004

The United Nations has cast doubt on assertions by the governor of the Papua New Guinea island of Bougainville that weapons have been flown in to the rebel-held area around the Panguna mine.

The governor, John Momis, and the administrator, Peter Tsiamalili, both say an Australian plane flew in arms two weeks ago.

The officials suspect the guns were destined for the rebel leader Francis Ona.

But the head of the UN mission on the island says this is an unsubstantiated rumour.

Tor Stenbock says if guns have indeed been smuggled in it would be a setback for the peace process.

"So far we have destroyed 1,875 guns, or more or less 94.4 per cent of the contained weapons here in Bougainville and Buka. It's so contrary of the will of the people here in Bougainville to enter into another era of guns, where the majority, the great majority of the people really want to get rid of the guns."

The United Nations has been trying to wrap up its mission on Bougainville and elections for an autonomous government are due to be held early next year.