23 Dec 2004

UN decision imminent on possible extension of mission on PNG's Bougainville

6:49 pm on 23 December 2004

The Papua New Guinea Intergovernment Relations Minister, Sir Peter Barter, says he is on tenterhooks awaiting word on whether the United Nations will extend its Bougainville mission.

PNG has sent its Foreign Minister, Sir Rabbie Namaliu, and an advisor, Professor Ted Wolfers, to the Security Council in New York, which is to decide within hours whether to approve the extension.

The nine-member mission was to leave Bougainville at the end of next week, but is needed to stay on to complete weapons destruction and to oversee elections for an autonomous Bougainville.

A constitution for an autonomous Bougainville has just been gazetted.

Sir Peter Barter says PNG has New Zealand and Australian backing for the mission to be extended for six months or until after elections, whichever is later, but the United States is reluctant.

"Oh, I'm only guessing, but I believe that the US largely fund a lot of these missions in foreign countries and a lot of them have been extended for ever and cost a lot of money. The difference, of course, in PNG is that the UNOMB in Bougainville is probably the least expensive UN office in the world and the most effective, and it's the only UN mission that hasn't used arms and doesn't require arms. It's been done through peaceful means."

Sir Peter Barter.