8 Jun 2009

Sarkozy's New Caledonia visit in July in doubt

6:08 am on 8 June 2009

Reports from New Caledonia say next month's planned visit by the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, may be deferred or cancelled.

Mr Sarkozy has also been due to host Pacific Islands leaders in Noumea and then stop in Australia but New Caledonia's daily newspaper says his trip is yet to be announced officially amid claims of other possible commitments, including a possible reshuffle after the European parliamentary election.

The paper says the summit with regional heads of government may instead be chaired by the French prime minister, Francois Fillon, who called off his planned Noumea visit in March because of the social unrest in Guadeloupe.

The paper says cancelling the summit with Pacific leaders is the least likely option as Mr Sarkozy still vies to meet New Caledonian leaders and become the first French president to make a visit to Australia.

In recent years, anti-independence parties in New Caledonia and French Polynesia repeatedly announced that Mr Sarkozy would visit in his capacity as leader of France's ruling UMP party, but in each case he failed to arrive.