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By Lindablue F. Romero

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (June 28, 1999 - Saipan Tribune/Abridged)---Rear Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert, Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Pacific Command, has informed Lt. Gov. Jesus R. Sablan that he supports the proposal of the CNMI to expand use of U.S. leased lands for the improvement of West Tinian Airport.

In a letter to Sablan, the U.S. Navy chief said he was willing to begin talks in July, after a brief visit to the U.S. mainland. Unfortunately, he could not grant Sablan's request to start the talks in mid-June because of the need to attend to naval business during that period.

Once an agreement is drafted, Greenert said he would submit it for review by appropriate Department of Defense authorities. He said the U.S. Navy would be directed to execute the agreement on behalf of the United States, once the document is approved.

The CNMI government is seeking an amendment to the Leaseback Agreement on West Tinian Airport that would permit the Commonwealth Ports Authority (CPA) to use some 600 acres for the construction of an airport runway, while some 900 additional acres would be set aside for mitigation and conservation areas.

CPA is set to undertake the lengthening of the runway from 6,000 feet to 8,500 feet to accommodate bigger aircraft.

Tinian officials have continued to emphasize that development of the Tinian Dynasty Hotel & Casino hinges on the capability of the existing West Tinian airport to accommodate bigger aircraft, to bring in the number of visitors needed, through direct flights to the island, to make the operation viable.

For additional reports from The Saipan Tribune, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Saipan Tribune.

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