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MAJURO, Marshall Islands (September 5, 2002 – Radio New Zealand International)---Marshall Islands negotiators say they will be ready to sign a new 20-year Compact of Free Association funding package with the United States next month.

The agreement will inject at least US$ 818 million dollars into the Marshall Islands economy through to the year 2023.

The United States is proposing US$ 40.9 million dollars annually in grants and trust fund contributions, while the Marshall Islands is seeking US$ 48 million.

The negotiations also are expected to result in an extension of U.S. Army use of its key missile defense test site at Kwajalein Atoll for an additional 50 years.

Marshall Islanders are seeking an increase in Kwajalein rental payments and also want to increase the level of taxes levied on American workers at the missile base.

The Marshall Islands chief negotiator, Robert Muller, says there are currently only two major outstanding points of contention — one connected to aid adjustments based on inflation, the other with retention of U.S. disaster assistance support.

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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