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Setbacks Seen In Bougainville Peace Process


Setbacks Seen In Bougainville Peace Process, Security Council Told

Progress in the Bougainville peace process had seen some recent setbacks and Secretary-General Kofi Annan was intending to extend the mandate of the United Nations Political Office there by another year to allow it to complete its tasks, a senior UN official told the Security Council today.

In his briefing to the Council, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Kieran Prendergast said that the peace process and weapons collection programme in Bougainville had been delayed and that the momentum for arms disposal had slowed down.

The setbacks in the weapons containment could be explained by well-intended efforts to address the impatience of ex-combatants, he said, noting that there had been problems relating to the disbursement of funds intended for them, which had led some of them to refuse to participate in the arms disposal programme.

There had also been a deliberate campaign of misrepresentation by some leaders regarding implementation of the peace process, Mr. Prendergast added. However, ex-combatant leaders had responded to those challenges, and on 30 October they had adopted decisions to make containers more secure and to place weapons collection back on track.

Mr. Prendergast said the UN Political Office in Bougainville (UNPOB) had reported that the credibility of the weapons disposal was at stake if the 24 December deadline was not met. Even if that target was met, the Office must still verify the process, which was unlikely to be completed by the 31 December expiration of its mandate. As a consequence, the Secretary-General had written to the Council requesting an extension of UNPOB's mandate for a year, as had the Government of Papua New Guinea.

Representatives from all 15 Council members took part in the ensuing discussion, as did those from Australia, Fiji and Papua New Guinea, whose envoy, Robert Aisi, said progress had been made in three main areas of the 2001 Bougainville Peace Agreement: peace reconciliation, arms disposal and unprecedented constitutional reforms.

Mr. Aisi confirmed that the first and second stages of arms collection were near completion, and only the third stage remained. Requesting a one-year extension of the UNPOB mandate that would enable the Office to finish its work, he said the Government was confident and optimistic that the mandate, albeit somewhat slowed, would be fulfilled under the proposed timetable, if not earlier. Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister, Michael Somare, had reaffirmed that during his 18 October meeting in New York with Mr. Annan.

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