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Last Updated: Wednesday, 15 December, 2004, 10:04 GMT
Downer upbeat on PNG rescue plan
By Phil Mercer
BBC correspondent in Sydney

Australian police in Papua New Guinea
Australia is sending police to PNG to help restore stability

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has said his government's multi-million dollar rescue plan for Papua New Guinea has got off to a good start.

Mr Downer was speaking at an annual ministerial meeting in Lae, Papua New Guinea's second city.

Under a scheme to help restore law and order, Australia has begun sending police officers and bureaucrats to its troubled neighbour.

An Australian report warned on Tuesday that PNG was heading towards collapse.

Australia is sending 210 police officers and more than 60 other officials, including finance and customs experts, to Papua New Guinea.

The Australian Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, has been upbeat about their chances of success in a country beset by deep-seated social and economic problems.

He warned, however, that the enhanced co-operation programme should not be seen as a magic wand. Mr Downer said that everyone involved faced a long, hard journey to make it work.

Australia will spend around $600m over the next five years trying to bring stability back to its former colony, which gained independence in 1975.

Papua New Guinea's Foreign Minister, Sir Rabbie Namaliu, said that his country needed help to counter threats by militant groups, people smugglers and gangs involved in the trafficking of drugs and guns.

Sir Rabbie has been infuriated by a report from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute in Canberra.

It stated that Papua New Guinea was facing social and economic ruin and could be overrun by criminals because of weak government and ineffective policing.

The foreign minister told the Post-Courier newspaper that the study was sensationalist and inaccurate and offered nothing constructive or helpful in the debate over his country's future.



SEE ALSO:
Papua New Guinea 'to implode'
14 Dec 04 |  Asia-Pacific
Policing Papua New Guinea's 'raskols'
09 Dec 04 |  From Our Own Correspondent
Australia signs PNG police deal
04 Jul 04 |  Asia-Pacific
Australia's new taste for intervention
15 Aug 03 |  Asia-Pacific
Country Profile: Papua New Guinea
09 Jul 03 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Papua New Guinea
19 May 03 |  Country profiles


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