16 Jun 2003

French Cabinet Minister makes third trip to New Caledonia in less than a year

3:24 pm on 16 June 2003

The French minister in charge of overseas territories, Brigitte Girardin, has arrived in New Caledonia on her third visit to the territory in less than a year.

She is due to take part in a review of the 1998 Noumea accord on greater autonomy in Kone in the northern province tomorrow - an event which will be boycotted by the pro-independence Caledonian Union.

Mrs Girardin, who landed early this morning, will spend the day on the island of Ouvea where 15 years ago 19 Kanaks were killed during unrest.

New Caledonian member of the French senate, Simon Loueckhote, told RFO radio that Ouvea is a place where the minister has never been.

"Ouvea is one of the few islands where she has yet to set foot. I think the same is true with Mare. She cannot be everywhere because she'll only be here for three days. This time she'll go to Ouvea. There is something extremely important in Ouvea and that is the sandalwood treatment plant."