The French overseas territories minister says he wants to guide New Caledonia's decolonisation process without taking side for or against independence.
The minister is due in Noumea on Friday to prepare next month's top-level talks in Paris on the 1998 Noumea Accord on greater autonomy which provides for a possible independence referendum after 2014.
Walter Zweifel reports.
"In an interview with New Caledonia's only daily paper, Victorin Lurel has stressed he will insist on the strict application of the accord, which he says imposes on the French state to keep an equal distance to the pro- and anti-independence camps. Without naming Nicolas Sarkozy, Mr Lurel says at times the authorities forget their impartiality, with top office holders speaking out in favour of the territory remaining within the French republic. He also says that the Noumea Accord calls for a common name and flag to be agreed on - two highly controversial issues, Mr Lurel concedes, are unlikely to be resolved before the elections in two years."