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Puerto Rican, US Officials To Meet

October 28, 1999

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Puerto Rican Gov. Pedro Rossello will send his chief of staff to the Pentagon on Monday for talks aimed at breaking a deadlock over Navy use of its bombing range on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques.

Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon said the Rossello aide, Angel Morey, will meet with Rudy deLeon, the undersecretary of defense for personnel, to discuss a recommendation by a presidential panel that the Navy be allowed to resume limited training on Vieques but pull out within five years.

Training on Vieques was halted after a civilian guard on the range was killed in a bombing accident on April 19. The Navy says it must resume training soon, however, in order to properly prepare the USS Eisenhower battle group before it begins a six-month overseas deployment in February.

Rossello insists there be no further live-fire training and that the range be returned to civilian use only. The Navy insists there is no adequate alternative site for such training, and the presidential panel supported that conclusion. The dispute has taken on deeper political overtones recently. Last week, Hillary Rodham Clinton publicly called for the Navy to stop using the bombing range immediately _ a position at odds with that of the commission her husband appointed to study the matter.

Bacon said it was possible that Army Gen. Henry H. Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the four service chiefs would travel to San Juan to discuss the matter with Puerto Rican officials.

``That’s certainly a reasonable suggestion,″ Bacon said, adding that a decision on that would depend on the outcome of Monday’s talks.

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