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NUKU'ALOFA, Tonga (January 12, 2001 - PINA Nius Online)---The government has suspended its international ship registry activities following Israel’s seizure of a ship flying Tonga's flag. The ship allegedly was smuggling arms to Palestinian militants.

In a statement, the government said it was shocked by the incident and has ordered a full review of the registry agreement with nationals in an unnamed country.

Tonga is among several Pacific Island nations that operate international ships registries as a way of raising revenue. The arrangement allows ship owners in other countries to avoid costly operating expenses pertaining to such matters as crew pay and safety requirements.

The kingdom previously ran into international controversy over a scheme involving the selling of Tongan passports.

The Tongan government statement said it wanted to assure the United Nations, the United States and the international community of its continuing support for the campaign against terrorism.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: 



NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (January 11, 2002 – Radio Australia)---Tonga’s representative at the United Nations, Tua Taumoepeau Tupou, has asked the government to review its policy on registering ships and allowing its flag to be flown by foreign owned vessels.

Radio Tonga reported that the envoy called on Tongan authorities to issue a statement to distance the government from a Tongan-flagged vessel -- the Karine -- seized by Israeli forces last week with a cargo of weapons allegedly for Palestinian use.

The request follows a report earlier this week from the U.S. State Department stating that the U.S. Navy was going to board another Tongan-flagged vessel -- the Rasha J -- because of U.S. concerns about its cargo.

The results of the boarding have not yet been released.

Radio Tonga said this is the third such incident involving Tongan registered ships in the past 12 months.

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

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