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MAJURO, Marshall Islands (June 5, 2002 – Radio New Zealand International)---The Marshall Islands says one of the major issues in determining the future funding levels contained in the Compact of Free Association with the U.S. is now close to being resolved.

Marshall Islands negotiator Robert Muller says the two countries are still discussing the levels of investment in a proposed Trust Fund but are close to agreement on funding of the base grant.

He says the Marshalls has asked for US$ 36.6 million annually for the operating grant and the U.S. has offered US$ 33.8 million.

Mr. Muller says the real difference is to do with the Trust Fund.

"Our concern falls mainly on the level of the Trust Fund contribution the U.S is proposing because this will require reconciliation of our financial modeling.

"They have different projections and we have different projections but essentially we are concerned that the Trust Fund contribution they are proposing may not be sufficient to meet this targeted Trust Fund level at the end of the 20 year term."

The Marshalls has requested US$ 12 million annually and the U.S. has offered US$ 8 million.

The new Compact of Free Association funding will cover the period until 2023.

Mr. Muller says they’re hoping to convene a 4th round of negotiations in Majuro next month.

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

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