PHOSPHATE COUNTRIES ASKED TO HELP PAY FOR BANABA AIRSTRIP

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TARAWA, Kiribati (January 31, 2002 – Radio Australia)---Countries that once took phosphate from Banaba Island in Kiribati are being asked to help pay for an airstrip, to make the island more accessible.

The Kiribati government says the only link to Banaba Island is an infrequent ferry service, and $5-7 million is needed for the 1,200-meter (3,960-foot) long airstrip it wants to build.

Assistance also is needed to bring in bulldozers larger than those already in Kiribati.

Formerly known as Ocean Island, Banaba was once a rich source of phosphate, resulting from the droppings of seabirds.

Until 1979, when Kiribati gained independence from the United Kingdom, Banaba Island was mined by British phosphate commissioners on behalf of the Australian, New Zealand and British governments.

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

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