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HONOLULU, Hawaii (August 6, 1997 - PIDP/CPIS)---Former Palau President Ngiratkel Etpison died Friday in California at the age of 72.

Palau's third elected President, Etpison served a four-year term beginning in 1988, during which time he campaigned for an end to the Micronesia country's status as a US-administered United Nations trust territory. Palau became an independent republic in free association with the United States on October 1, 1994.

At the time of his death, he held the position of special envoy for economic matters. He received the assignment last year from current Palau President Kuniwo Nakamura.

Etpison's body will be returned to Palau for burial via Honolulu, where Hawaii's Palauan community now is making arrangements to pay formal respects.

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