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PNG deadlocked in power struggle

Papua New Guinea politics are deadlocked, with two men claiming to be prime minister, two governments saying they hold power, rival police chiefs maintaining the peace - and no one sure who is in charge.

The power struggle in the most populous South Pacific island nation has exasperated the public and prompted union leaders to call on both men claiming to be prime minister to find a solution before the situation worsens.

The Supreme Court and Governor-General Sir Michael Ogio have backed 76-year-old Sir Michael Somare, who the court ruled was illegally removed as prime minister while getting medical treatment outside the country.

But MPs loyal to his rival Peter O'Neill have passed retroactive legislation recognising him as leader.

At a press conference, Mr O'Neill said he had ordered police to take control of government offices, including the prime minister's headquarters, where Mr Somare and his followers were working. But Mr O'Neill said he had no authority to issue arrest warrants for Mr Somare or his ministers.

Mr Somare had been scheduled to hold a press conference earlier, but it was delayed without explanation.

"We are sick and tired of the selfish behaviour by our politicians," said Michael Malabang, head of the country's Trade Union Congress, which represents tens of thousands of private and public sector workers across Papua New Guinea, a former Australian territory rich in mineral resources. "We don't want a total public service breakdown, and it is coming to that stage."

The stand-off began on Monday when the Supreme Court ruled that Mr O'Neill's election by parliament in August was unconstitutional and said Mr Somare should be reinstated as prime minister.

MPs backing Mr O'Neill stormed the gates of Mr Ogio's official residence on Tuesday, demanding he meet Mr O'Neill.

Mr Ogio, who represents the Queen - the Commonwealth country's head of state - said he would decide by Wednesday who should be prime minister.

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