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MAJURO, Marshall Islands (January 25, 2000 – Radio Australia)---New Foreign Minister Alvin Jacklick says action is needed to repair the country's reputation, which was damaged by the previous governments’ sale of passports.

Mr. Jacklick said the issue has clouded ties with the United States.

From the mid-1990s, the Marshall Islands began selling hundreds of passports to Asians -- primarily in China -- earning the country tens of millions of dollars.

The U.S. government lodged numerous complaints with the Marshall Islands government, after many of those who bought passports tried to use them to enter the United States.

Under the Compact of Free Association between the U.S. and the Marshalls, natural born Marshall Islanders can live, study and work in the United States without needing a visa. However, this arrangement does not apply to persons who have purchased Marshall Islands passports.

The government announced in mid-1996 that passport sales were halted, but Mr. Jacklick said he understood that passport sales continued after that date.

Mr. Jacklick indicated that he and the Cabinet have begun reviewing the matter.

For additional reports from Radio Australia, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Radio Australia.

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