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Puerto Rico Wants Navy Bombing Halted

A federal judge is hearing a request from the Puerto Rican government to stop the U.S. Navy from resuming bombing exercises this weekend on the territory's Vieques Island.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court by Puerto Rican governor Sila Calderson, seeks a temporary injunction against artillery that has been fired for more than half a century on the Navy training grounds there. After a temporary halt in exercises, the Navy plans to resume the artillery shelling on Friday.

Gov. Sila Calderson, said the suite was prompted by concern for "the health and security of all Puerto Ricans."

U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler is conducting the hearing.

Plaintiffs named in the lawsuit are the Navy, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, acting Navy Secretary Robert Pirie and Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Vern Clark.

The lawsuit charges that the U.S. government broke a promise to stop the bombing drill until the Department of Health and Human Services could study medical reports compiled by Puerto Rican researchers.

On Tuesday, Navy spokesman Jeff Gordon called the motion "a grave development in the relationship between the U.S. Navy and the commonwealth government."

Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. Craig Quigley said he did not know what the Defense Department would do if an injunction was issued.

"We'll have to see what the final language of the legislation says and have our lawyers take a loot at it and see what their advice is," he said at briefing on Tuesday.

The U.S. has used Vieques, a 33,000-acre island off eastern Puerto Rico, for bomb practice for over 50 years. Protests rang out after the death of civilian David Sanes Rodriguez during a bombing run two years ago.

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