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REUTERS ENGLISH NEWS SERVICE
No Compromise on Vieques
Pentagon, Puerto Rican official discuss Vieques
November 1, 1999
Copyright © 1999 REUTERS LTD. All Rights Reserved.
WASHINGTON, Nov 1 - The chief of staff to Puerto Rico Gov.
Pedro Rossello told a top Pentagon official on Monday that the
U.S. territory had no intention of compromising on its demand
that the Navy abandon a live-fire training range on the island
of Vieques .
Angel Morey held talks on Vieques with Defense Undersecretary
Rudy DeLeon for just over an hour at the Pentagon and told reporters
later that he had made clear there was no room for compromise
on Puerto Rico 's position.
"There was no change in positions... no decisions were
reached," a Pentagon official also told Reuters, saying the
two sides had discussed the range, where a security guard was
killed in an accidental bombing by U.S. Marine Corps jets on April
No further talks were scheduled.
The defense official, who asked not to be identified, said
Defense Secretary William Cohen was expected to make a recommendation
to President Bill Clinton shortly on a study made recently by
a presidential commission on Vieques. That study recommended that
the range remain open for up to five more years while an alternative
site was found.
Both Cohen and Clinton last month urged the Navy and officials
of Puerto Rico to try to reach a compromise on the issue.
The Navy and Marine Corps say they need to keep the range open
because it is unique for training aircraft carrier battle groups
Rossello demanded at a Senate hearing on Oct. 19 that the Navy
immediately end 57 years of live-fire training on Vieques, calling
the service "a shabby steward" of health and ecology
Rossello rejected a call the previous day from a presidential
panel for the Navy to continue bombing Vieques off eastern Puerto
Rico for up to five years while seeking an alternative for one
of the world's largest such training ranges.
The April incident sparked demands from fishermen and independence
activists in Puerto Rico that the Navy leave.
Protesters have occupied the training areas at either end of
the 21-mile (33-km)-long island and the Navy temporarily has halted
all live-fire training on Vieques although the aircraft carrier
Eisenhower battle group is scheduled to practice there in December
before its deployment overseas in February.