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IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Release No: 040-00
January 31, 2000

SECRETARY COHEN STATEMENT ON VIEQUES

I welcome the progress made with the Government of Puerto Rico in establishing a framework to move past the tragic accident of last April and focus squarely on the future.

Since early December, representatives from the White House, the Departments of Defense and the Navy, and the Government of Puerto Rico have worked constructively and in good faith to reconcile the vital need for training with the legitimate concerns of the people of Vieques. We recognized the unique burden that this training places on them and put forth a proposal that reduces the impact of this training and provides community initiatives to offset the costs.

When implemented, the directives issued by President Clinton will enable the Navy to resume its important training at Vieques -- training that will help keep our Navy and Marine Corps strong and ready. The directives provide for significant economic benefits for the people of Vieques. Most importantly, this clears a path for a fair, objective referendum through which the people of Vieques can chart the future and how the Navy fits within that vision.

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