12 Dec 2008

US rejects Marshall Islands request

12:08 pm on 12 December 2008

The United States government has flatly rejected the Marshall Islands President's proposal to use some American grant money to meet nuclear test compensation needs.

The Director of Interior's Office of Insular Affairs, Nikolao Pula, told President Litokwa Tomeing that the purpose he suggests falls outside of the uses of sector grant funds.

But President Office officials say the rejection doesn't change the reality on the ground in the Marshall Islands that a resolution to long-stalled nuclear test compensation payments is increasingly urgent.

One official says it's a humanitarian issue.

The U.S. tested 67 nuclear weapons at Bikini and Enewetak atolls from 1946 to 1958.

But the U.S. State Department said last year that there is no legal obligation for the U.S. to provide additional compensation.

President Tomeing recommended reallocating $1.2 million of U.S. grants each year starting in 2009 as an interim way to continue to pay off personal injury awards.

He pointed out that this is now the third consecutive year in which the Nuclear Claims Tribunal has been unable to issue any payments for awards already approved for lack of funds.

About half of the 2,000 islanders who received personal injury awards have died without receiving full compensation.