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SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, June 10) - The Commonwealth of
the Northern Marianas government has no legal authority to ban U.S. citizens and
permanent residents from entering the islands, Press Secretary Pete A. Callaghan
said yesterday in defense of the new SARS travel policy that has been described
as "biased and selective" by its critics.

It was also learned that acting Gov. Diego T. Benavente approved
the entry of at least three Chinese nationals on June 6 — two days after he
revised the government’s travel policy.

Asked for comment, Callaghan said there is a
"possibility" that the government has allowed some foreign nationals
from countries affected by SARS to enter the CNMI.

"It is possible because the directive that came out last
week permits the governor to make exemptions based on the ‘public good,’
" he said.

Callaghan maintains that the CNMI government has "no legal
authority" to prohibit the entry of U.S. citizens and permanent residents.

"We don’t think we can ban U.S. citizens from coming to
their own county," he said.

"It’s not that (U.S. citizens and permanent residents)
are less immune to the disease, but you cannot very well tell somebody who is
from the U.S. that they cannot come home, and that is what we would be doing if
we ban our own citizens from coming into the CNMI — that is our contention
there," Callaghan said.

Benavente, as acting governor, amended the SARS travel ban to
allow the entry of U.S. citizens and permanent residents who are coming from
countries affected by SARS.

Airlines and the local garment industry have also expressed
concern about the CNMI’s SARS travel policy which, they said, affected their

June 10, 2003

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