Papua New Guinea chooses new prime minister

In this handout photo taken on July 16, 2017 shows then Papua New Guinea prime minister Peter O"Neill (L) and then finance minister James Marape (R)Image copyright

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Newly-elected PM James Marape (R) with former leader Peter O’Neill (file picture)

Papua New Guinea has appointed a new prime minister after weeks of political upheaval.

Lawmakers voted overwhelmingly to elect James Marape, a former finance minister, who resigned in April in protest against a gas project.

His appointment comes after the outgoing leader Peter O’Neill resigned on Wednesday.

Mr O’Neill faced calls for his resignation for weeks and was finally pressured into stepping down.

The ex-prime minister’s leadership was put under pressure by a series of political defections in recent days, and tensions over a multi-billion-dollar gas project signed this year with French company Total and the US firm ExxonMobil.

The project would almost double PNG’s gas exports, but local communities have raised fears that they would be excluded from the benefits.

Papua New Guinea, a South Pacific nation of 7.3 million people, has rich reserves of copper, gold, and oil, but development has been hampered by public order issues, rugged terrain and disputes over land.