US wanted more time to cose USNAS

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Americans would leave the Naval Air Station it is closing in September, 1995.


Americans would leave the Naval Air Station it is closing in September, 1995.

The US wanted to return the Base and Civil Air Terminal "in such a way that if we wanted to come back here we would be a welcome guest,'' Mr. Joseph P.

O'Neill told the Kiwanis Club of Hamilton.

"If we do it in any other way, we dishonour ourselves, we make enemies, and it is not what I have been sent down here to do,'' he said.

A high-ranking career diplomat, Mr. O'Neill arrived in Bermuda in February to help fill a long gap created by the delay in naming a political appointment to succeed former US Consul General Mr. Ebersole Gaines.

With the dicey issues of the US Base closures and Independence on the agenda at the same time, he is seen as a troubleshooter.

Mr. O'Neill said there was a long history of cooperation between Americans and Bermudians dating to before 1776. And he raised the possibility the US might want a Base in Bermuda again in the not-too-distant future. He said the Americans would have preferred to keep a smaller presence in Bermuda, rather than close the Base entirely. Nor did it want such a short time frame for handing the Base back, he said.

"But there is in the US a thing called freedom of the Press,'' he said. TV journalist Mr. Sam Donaldson "came down from ABC and did a hatchet job on us.

He did not give the US Government the proper amount of time to hand over the Base to Bermudians as we would have liked to have done it.'' Nevertheless, he predicted there would be no noticeable difference in air operations after the US left.

Also "there are suggestions that we're going to leave behind toxic waste, and asbestos'', he said. "There are already arrangements made for ships to come down and take away most of this.'' The Base would be "no harm to anybody''.

And Bermuda would "profit'' from the infrastructure left behind.

"Houses, the Airport, all the facilities that we can hand back, the schools, the bowling alley, the McDonald's, when we want to use the facilities, we're going to have to come to the Government of Bermuda and say, `Please'.

"We may have to pay a service charge, if that's what your Government decides.'' The US did not plan to get involved in the Independence issue.

"Regardless of what happens, the relation between the people of Bermuda and the people of the US is longstanding, is safe, is secure, and is made of good solid rock.''

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