19 Jan 2005

New Caledonia's Jacques Lafleur steps down as party leader

10:23 am on 19 January 2005

One of New Caledonia's longest-serving political leaders, Jacques Lafleur, has stepped down as leader of the anti-independence Rassemblement-UMP party.

Mr Lafleur has led the Rassemblement-UMP since its foundation 27 years ago.

In 2002 he said he would retire from politics, but then returned to lead his party at last year's election.

Mr Lafleur says he's handed the leadership to party member and former territorial president, Pierre Frogier

He made the announcement after in Paris after a meeting with French overseas minister, Brigitte Girardin.

The Rassemblement-UMP party had held power in New Caledonia for more than 25 years before it was defeated at the hands of the Future Together party in last year's election.