KIRIBATI GOVERNMENT ISSUES DENIAL OF 'US INVASION' WEBSITE STORY

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TARAWA, Kiribati (Nov. 1, 2002 - Pacnews/Spinner News/Pacific Media Watch)---A story about plans by the United States to invade Kiribati that has caused widespread concern in Tarawa and Christmas Island came from a New Zealand satirical website.

Pacnews reported that the story, which led the Office of the President to issue a series of public broadcasts assuring the population that the planned "invasion" was not true, came from Spinner, a website featuring satirical "news" stories.

(http://www.worldsworstweb.com/0902/kiribati.htm)

On Wednesday night the Kiribati Office of the President -- apparently unaware that the story seemed to be designed to poke fun at the foreign policies of U.S. President George W. Bush -- issued a statement condemning the story as a "misleading, fearful, intimidating and defamatory" attempt to "cause a lot of problems before the general elections."

The story, which ran in the September edition of Spinner, carried the headline "Bush to invade Kiribati island.s"

It read in part: "George W. Bush today announced a realignment of U.S. foreign policy. The goal of ousting Iraq's Saddam Hussein has now been replaced by the goal of regime change in the Kiribati islands as the U.S.' new top priority.

"'For years the evil dictator Teburoro Tito has oppressed his people and terrorized the Pacific region. We also have reason to believe he is in the process of developing weapons of mass destruction. And some pretty damn fine crab soup,’ Bush said.

"Bush today announced the departure of the 7th Admiralty Fleet to Kiribati. An invasion is expected to begin within the next two weeks.

"Intense diplomatic activity has begun to establish international support for the U.S. initiative.

"'Come on guys, this will be [easy] compared to Iraq,' pleaded Bush. 'They don't even have an army.'"

The Office of the President said yesterday it was trying to "track down the source" of the story, Pacnews reported.

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