PORT-AU-PRINCE (September 14, 1998 http://www.nandotimes.com)
Haitian Foreign Affairs Minister Fritz Longchamp on Monday questioned the ownership of a rocky island off Haiti's coast claimed by the United States more than a century ago as a rich source of guano, or bird droppings.Navassa, a uninhabited isle about 35 miles west of Haiti, was claimed by the United States in 1857 under the U.S. Guano Act,which gave rights to individuals to claim islands that contained guano, as bird droppings are called. Nitrogen-rich guano was mined as a source of fertilizer and also was used in the manufacture of gunpowder."Navassa is a part of the national territory of the Republic of Haiti. This is consecrated by the constitution of Haiti," Longchamp said on Radio Metropole on Monday.
U.S. Ambassador Timothy Carney, at a public appearance in Port-au-Prince last week, claimed the island was U.S. territory."The United States has governed the island since 1858, thus it is American territory," Carney said.In 1865, the U.S. began mining the island for guano. In 1901, the mining company went bankrupt and left the island until 1917 when the U.S. Coast Guard built a light house there following the opening of the Panama Canal.The Coast Guard visited the island twice a year until 1997 when a U.S. scientific expedition discovered rare wildlife, U.S.officials said. "Now the island is considered to be ecologically important," a U.S. embassy press officer said.
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