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Downer signs off on police mission to PNG

ABC News Online

The foreign ministers of Australia and Papua New Guinea (PNG) have signed an agreement that authorises the deployment of federal police to PNG. Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer says 210 federal police and some administrative support staff will begin arriving in PNG next month. The first objective will be to help enforce law and order in the troubled province of Bougainville.

Police officers from New Zealand are already on the ground. Mr Downer says that by November the Australian police will also be working in the capital, Port Moresby, and in some highland areas.

He admits the police are entering a high-risk environment, but says it would be irresponsible of Australia not to help its neighbour in its time of need. "This is going to be for police quite dangerous work and we're, for our part, very conscious of the risks involved," he said.

"I think the Papua New Guinea constabulary and Government are very aware of that as well . They shouldn't have any illusions about this, this is a significant challenge."

PNG's Foreign Minister, Sir Rabbie Namaliu, says the deployment is the most significant bilateral agreement with Australia in 30 years.