9 Aug 2004

UN may extend Bougainville role

3:50 pm on 9 August 2004

The United Nations is ready and willing to extend the tenure of its peace monitors on the Papua New Guinea island of Bougainville if necessary.

In June, the UN Observer Mission had its stay extended to the end of December following pleas from the Bougainville and PNG leadership.

But at the time it came with a rider that there would be no further extensions and the PNG government had to develop an exit strategy for the UN officials.

However, a United Nations Under Secretary General, Anwarul Chowdhury, who has been in Apia to meet Forum leaders, says the UN is willing to stay until the job is complete:

"If we leave it half way through, it is neither her nor there. So, it's very important for us, in the United Nations, for the parties concerned, and for the 15 members of the Security Council to focus what is the potential of this process and whether it needs back-up and support from the United Nations Security Council to continue."

Bougainville is expected to shortly convene its Constituent Assembly to assess the third draft of the constitution.

Local leaders are hoping to hold elections at the end of the year.