26 Aug 2008

France says its Pacific territories have chosen to remain French

3:46 pm on 26 August 2008

A senior French government official, Nicolas Desforges, says France's involvement in the Pacific is important because its possessions in the region have chosen to remain French.

Mr Desforges made his comment in an interview with the Nouvelles Caledoniennes newspaper, saying Paris will work towards integration in the Pacific.

This comes despite French Polynesia having unsuccessfully lobbied the Forum from 2004 to 2007 for support to join New Caledonia on the UN list of territories to be decolonised.

New Caledonia is to decide within ten years whether to opt for independence.

Mr Desforges, who works for the overseas territory section of France's interior ministry, also says he attended the post-Forum dialogue meeting in Niue to highlight France's role in providing development funding.

He also says its's too early to consider New Caledonia's call for it to be more involved in the Forum as this has not been put forward officially.

France has also signalled that it intends to host a summit between President Nicolas Sarkozy and Pacific leaders in Noumea in a year after last hosting the leaders in Paris two years ago.