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MAJURO, Marshall Islands (December 21, 2001 – Marshall Islands Journal)---The U.S. has proposed that the RMI be subject to international mailing rates in order to cover substantial losses that the U.S. Postal Service is sustaining to providing mail delivery to the RMI.

The proposal was put on the negotiating table at the third round of Compact talks in Honolulu this month.

U.S. officials estimate that the current weekly charter service is costing the USPS between $2.2 million and $2.4 million annually.

Currently, the RMI is treated as a domestic mail zone of the U.S., with the significantly less expensive domestic rates applying to mail between the RMI and U.S. areas. The difference in the cost of U.S. domestic and international mailing rates for a half ounce letter is about 50 cents.

Bobby Muller, the executive director of Compact negotiations for the RMI, said the RMI is currently studying several subsidiary agreements put forth by the U.S. delegation.

He acknowledged the high cost of the service, but added that the RMI's approach to the negotiations is that any changes in the agreements should be "to improve the service and make it relevant to the RMI."

Both sides need to rationalize the transportation costs of current mail service, he said.

The aim, he added, is to reach agreement on the various subsidiary agreements prior to the next negotiating session in the RMI in February.

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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