13 Jan 2003

Negotiations on US/Marshalls Compact resume this week

6:29 am on 13 January 2003

The inability of United States negotiators to reach agreement with Marshall Islanders on rental increases for the American missile testing base on Kwajalein atoll is threatening to derail a one billion US dollar, 20 year aid package.

Marshall Islands foreign minister, Gerald Zackios, says Kwajalein is the key issue in further negotiations scheduled to take place later this week.

Kwajalein landowners have rejected a US offer of about 14 million dollars annual rental, wanting it raised to just over nineteen million.

They currently receive eleven point three million US dollars a year .

Kwajalein is central to America's missle testing programmes, including the development of the Bush administration's defence missile system, the fist stage of which is planned to be in place by 2004.

The rental argument and other issues will need to be settled soon and presented to the US Congress for review and approval as the present funding agreement expires on September 30th