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Frustrated over lack of progress on long-term lease

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, April 24, 2009) – The US ambassador to the Marshall Islands says the failure by the island government to approve long-term US use of a missile testing range threatens a treaty that provides nearly two-thirds of the country's annual budget.

Clyde Bishop says the continued use of the Reagan Test Site at Kwajalein Atoll is crucial to the Compact of Free Association between the two countries.

The compact provides the Marshall Islands with about 70 million US dollars annually through to 2023 and gives islanders visa-free access to the US.

There has been a long-running dispute between traditional landowners of Kwajalein and the US over rental increases for a new lease agreement lasting until 2066.

A deadline passed late last year to resolve the dispute and the US government has granted an extra five years to find a solution.

But Ambassador Bishop who has just completed his term warns if there is no sign of progress, the US government could reassess its position sooner.

Radio Australia: http://www.radioaustralianews.net.au

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