8 Aug 2003

NZ Foreign Minister dismisses reports of Keke linking with Bougainvilleans

4:27 pm on 8 August 2003

The New Zealand Foreign Minister Phil Goff has dismissed reports that Guadalcanal Weather Coast rebel Harold Keke, is building up arms and recruiting neighbouring Bougainvilleans to resist the Australia-led intervention.

A Papua New Guinea newspaper, the Post Courier, reported this week that Keke has been visiting Bougainville in recent weeks, and taking arms and men back to his Guadalcanal camp, but Mr Goff says that is not his understanding.

"We have had strong assurances from within Bougainville that the people of Bougainville do not want to have involvement in the Solomon Islands or on the Weathercoast. I know there are some relationships that have existed there, but both the government of Papua New Guinea and the presence of patrol boats will help ensure there will not be arm smuggling in either direction between the Solomons and Bougainville."

Phil Goff says Keke is entering into discussions with the special co-ordinator of the intervention forces, and the aim is to achieve a peaceful resolution.

But he has stressed that people who have committed serious crimes will be held accountable.