Vote To Abolish Palau’s Nuclear Weapons Ban Begins
KOROR, Palau (AP) _ Voters in this Pacific island chain decided today whether to delete a ban on nuclear weapons from its constitution, an issue that holds the key to nearly $1 billion in badly needed U.S. economic aid.
The referendum needs approval by a simple majority of the voters and 12 of Palau’s 16 states.
If the anti-nuclear language is deleted, the government will hold a national referendum Aug. 21 on a proposed political and economic compact with the United States.
The compact would let the United States operate nuclear-capable and -propelled ships and aircraft in Palau territory without having to disclose the presence of the nuclear devices. That conflicts with Palau’s constitution.
Palau, a United Nations trusteeship of nearly 14,000 residents, was the first country in the world to adopt a nuclear-free constitution.
The compact would open the door to nearly $1 billion in U.S aid over a 50- year period. Once it is implemented, Palau would receive $141 million in the first year.
On Monday, Palau’s Supreme Court denied a request by three Palau men to halt today’s rferendum.
Their attorney, Kaleb Udui, said a new suit may be brought to void the results.
He said Palau’s legislature violated constitutional procedures and its own rules in setting the two referendums. He also said the language on the two ballots is confusing and misleading.
Supporters of the amendment have said its failure would cause continued economic hardship in the islands, especially to families of those who lost thier jobs in early July when the government ran out of money for salaries.