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MAJURO, Marshall Islands (July 8, 2001 – Radio Australia)---The Marshall Islands is preparing for a new round of talks with the United States over future funding of their Compact of Free Association.

Radio Australia correspondent Sean Dorney reports that the talks have been on hold for nearly two years.

"The Compact of Free Association entered into when the Marshall Islands gained its independence from the United States provided for an aid package amounting to almost one billion U.S. dollars over fifteen years.

"The current assistance runs out in 2003.

"The United States has been less than happy with some aspects of how the Marshall Islands has managed the money. But reports from the Marshall's capital, Majuro, say that President Kessai Note is sending a strong "commitment to improve" message through his recent Cabinet reshuffle.

"The well regarded Foreign Minister, Alvin Jacklick, has taken over the troubled Health and Environment Ministry while the Compact negotiations will now be led by Gerald Zackios, a man with a strong legal background and former Attorney General.

"The United States negotiating team will arrive in the Marshalls on Tuesday.

"It will be led by the State Department's Chief Compact Negotiator, Allen Stayman.

"Sean Dorney, Radio Australia."

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

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