24 Dec 2004

PNG Minister confident UN will stay on in Bougainville

7:32 am on 24 December 2004

The Papua New Guinea Inter-government Relations Minister, Sir Peter Barter, says he is confident the United Nations will approve an extension to its observer mission to Bougainville.

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

The nine-member mission was to leave Bougainville by the end of this month, but is needed to stay on, to complete weapons destruction and oversee elections for an autonomous island province.

Sir Peter expects to hear soon whether the Security Council will extend the mission.

He says he has heard the United States may be reluctant.

"I've had some news back saying there's been suggestions that it be extended for three or four months. That's not exactly what we want. I'm confident that they will go for the elections, until such time that the elections for the autonomous government of Bougainville are held."

Sir Peter says it will pose difficulties for PNG if the extension isn't approved, because the country's constitution, and that of the autonomous Bougainville, specify the involvement of UN observers.