15 Mar 2004

French Minister says New Caledonia's Noumea Accord is progressing well

7:22 am on 15 March 2004

The French minister in charge of overseas territories, Brigitte Girardin, has ended a three-day official visit to New Caledonia, saying she has the impression that things are progressing well.

Mrs Girardin says there have been advances with the Noumea Accord on greater autonomy, both in spirit and in substance.

Her visit comes less than two months before territorial elections and as the small Alliance Party accuses the main party, the anti independence RPCR, of having wasted the last five years by failing to implement the accord.

Both New Caledonian signatories of the accord, the RPCR and the pro independence FLNKS, are now divided, in part over policies related to the accord.

Mrs Girardin says New Caledonia is set to have an economic boom with two big nickel projects about to come on stream, but she says challenges remain to overcome the economic imbalance within the territory.