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Premier Named in Papua New Guinea

March 28, 1997| Associated Press

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea — The government picked a caretaker prime minister Thursday to replace Julius Chan, who resigned after an uproar over foreign mercenaries hired to quash a rebellion on Bougainville island.

The Cabinet chose John Giheno, the mining and petroleum minister, to be prime minister until June 14 elections in this Pacific country off northern Australia.

Riots and an army mutiny sprang from the mercenary hirings. Chan said he resigned to preserve peace and order.

He also stepped down so an independent judicial inquiry could be conducted into his government's $36-million contract with the British mercenary firm Sandline International to end a 9-year-old uprising on Bougainville.

Finance Minister Chris Haiveta and Defense Minister Mathias Ijape also resigned.

The Bougainville rebellion began in 1988 as an environmental protest, then escalated into a guerrilla war to secede from Papua New Guinea. About 1,000 people have died in the fighting.

Giheno said he hoped to give the prime minister's job back to Chan if he is exonerated.

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