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Last Updated: Monday, 22 September, 2003, 15:50 GMT 16:50 UK
Jamaica eyes republican future
Queen Elizabeth with PJ Patterson
Patterson welcomed the Queen to Jamaica in 2002

Jamaican Prime minister PJ Patterson says he wants the island to be a republic by the time he leaves office in 2007.

"I love the Queen dearly," he told a party conference on Sunday. "But the time has come when we must have a head of state chosen by us."

Jamaica declared independence from Britain in 1962, but - like 11 other Caribbean countries - retains the Queen as a ceremonial head of state.

A Buckingham Palace spokeswoman said Mr Patterson was "entitled" to express his views on the issue but refused to comment further.

Becoming a republic would require changes to Jamaica's constitution.

The main parties on the island are in favour, but they differ over the role of a new head of state.

The majority of people in Jamaica are ready to consign to history the last vestiges of colonialism
PJ Patterson
Mr Patterson's governing People's National Party (PNP) prefers an executive president elected by the people.

The opposition Labour party favours a largely ceremonial post.

However, Mr Patterson says he is willing to accept the opposition's position in order to "fulfil the national desire".

"The majority of people in Jamaica are ready to consign to history the last vestiges of colonialism," he said on Sunday.

Mr Patterson has long supported moves towards making Jamaica a republic.

Under his rule, in 2002, parliament dropped a requirement for those holding public office to take an oath of allegiance to the Queen.

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