29 Jul 2009

France's foreign minister to chair Pacific leaders summit in New Caledonia

9:38 am on 29 July 2009

France has now confirmed that the foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, will host Friday's summit with Pacific leaders in New Caledonia.

This comes after first President Nicolas Sarkozy and then the prime minister Francois Fillon pulled out of the event which is to raise security and development issues.

The downgrading of the summit is being reflected in some countries lowering the seniority of their delegates in response to the French decisions.

The changes have dismayed some New Caledonian politicians, with the pro-independence FLNKS movement's Roch Wamytan labelling the summit a provocation.

He says with the decolonisation underway, France's dispatch of the foreign minister to Noumea implies that it will want to keep running New Caledonia's foreign relations.

The New Caledonian president, Philippe Gomes, has expressed regret that France has not sent either the President of the prime minister.