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SYDNEY, Australia (ABC News Online, Jan. 8) - Asylum seekers involved in a hunger strike on Nauru have ended their protest.

The group which runs the island's detention center, the International Organization for Migration, says 28 hunger strikers spoke to the head of the center shortly after 3 p.m. AEDT.

IOM regional representative Dennis Nihill says the asylum seekers said they were ending their hunger strike on advice from their representatives in Australia.

"Right now our doctors are removing the sutures from those who had their mouths sewn up," he said. "The cooks have got a soup on the boil and they should be eating soup within the hour."

A spokeswoman for Nauruan President Rene Harris says she is formally writing to the Australian Government to ensure a medical team is sent to the country.

The hunger strike began almost a month ago, with 33 mainly Afghan men still involved this morning.

Greg Barns from refugee support group "A Just Australia" says the men have stopped the protest partly because of what he says is a review of their claims for asylum.

He says they were also pleased by plans for an independent medical team to visit the island.

Immigration Minister Senator Amanda Vanstone welcomed the announcement in a statement released this evening.

But she says the Australian Government will not be swayed by acts of self harm.

Opposition immigration spokesman Stephen Smith also welcomed the news, but says the Government has not made any attempt to end the protest.

"This hunger strike could have been resolved so much earlier in the piece if the Government had responded in an effective way," he said.

January 9, 2004

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