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MAJURO, Marshall Islands (March 24, 2000 – Marshall Islands Journal)—The Marshall Islands will likely wait until 2001 to petition the U.S. Congress to expand nuclear test compensation and medical care, the Foreign Minister said Tuesday.

Minister Alvin Jacklick said that even if the RMI’s petition to the Congress is ready later this year, most Congressional leaders will be focused on the November national elections in the U.S.

He said that there is still much work that the government has to do before it is ready to make its pitch to the Congress to reconsider the current compensation provisions in the Compact. The petition most likely will be submitted next year, he indicated.

The process will involve the four affected atolls, the Nuclear Claims Tribunal, scientists and others in the preparation of a credible document.

"We have to get our act together and put together proper documentation to present to the Congress," he said.

Although some data from the test period has been declassified by the Department of Energy and turned over to the RMI, "most information is still classified," he said.

While the RMI would like access to more test period studies and reports -- particularly from the Defense Department -- "even if the U.S. government is not forthcoming with information, the U.S. Congress will be sympathetic to the plight of the Marshallese people."

The Marshall Islands Journal, Box 14, Majuro, Marshall Islands 96960 E-mail: journal@ntamar.com  Subscriptions (weekly): 1 year US $87.00; international $213.00 (air mail).

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