7 Sep 2005

President of PNG's Bougainville despatches deputy to persuade rebels to return police vehicle

6:56 pm on 7 September 2005

The president of Papua New Guinea's province of Bougainville is sending his deputy and other senior cabinet members to the south of the main island to persuade rebels to return a stolen police vehicle.

A group of 20 heavily-armed Mekamui supporters held up and seized a police vehicle at a roadblock at the weekend.

The men ordered the four policemen out of the vehicle and demanded money for allegedly violating the Mekamui "No Go Zone".

President Joseph Kabui says his senior colleagues will meet the leaders from south Bougainville and join the Mekamuis for discussions.

"There is a lot of dialogue that is going on to try to find ways of avoiding these sort of situations from getting out of hand. Because nobody in his right mind wants to see the problem get out of hand on Bougainville."

President Kabui says southern officials have already been talking to police.