30 Jun 2005

UN ends mission in PNG's Bougainville province

3:29 pm on 30 June 2005

The United Nations observer mission in the Papua New Guinea province of Bougainville ends today after seven years overseeing the peace process that followed the island's bitter secessionist conflict.

The UN Observer Mission in Bougainville, the UNOMB, was sent to the province in June 1998 to help oversee the peace process, assisted by unarmed soldiers from Australia, New Zealand and various Pacific Islands nations.

Last month, UNOMB's director Tor Stenbock concluded that the weapons disposal plan had been sufficiently completed to allow the first autonomous government to be elected.

The 40-member assembly under former rebel leader President Joseph Kabui was sworn in two weeks ago..

Mr Stenbock steps down as UNOMB director today but will stay in Bougainville to wind up the mission in his capacity as the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative, before leaving PNG on August the 15th.

He says Bougainville has made a very remarkable progress to normalcy.

PNG's Inter-Government Relations Minister Peter Barter has praised the seven year UN operation.

He says it has been one of the UNs' smallest peace-related missions anywhere in the world, but one of the most successful.

Sir Peter says this achievement owes a lot to the way in which all parties have co-operated, and the leadership provided by successive UNOMB directors and staff.