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Protesters force out Asian leader

Soldiers and protesters who had blockaded Parliament forced the resignation Wednesday of a prime minister who brought in foreign mercenaries to fight secessionist rebels.

"I think I have taken the right course . . . to preserve peace, to preserve order," Prime Minister Julius Chan told lawmakers, to applause. "This is the right thing to do."

Outside, about 2,000 protesters cheered loudly at the news, then let the lawmakers _ about 80 of whom had spent the night in their offices _ leave the building.

An interim government will run the country until national elections in June.

Chan's government had hired British and South African mercenaries to quash a 9-year-old rebellion on the island of Bougainville. When details of the mercenary contract leaked out, the country's soldiers revolted, angry that the government was spending $36-million on the foreign fighters when they were underpaid and poorly equipped.

Civilians joined them, protesting what they saw as government mismanagement and corruption.

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