26 May 2003

French president's visit to Australia in July in question

2:42 pm on 26 May 2003

New Caledonia's veteran politician, Jacques Lafleur, says he doubts that the French President, Jacques Chirac, will now visit Australia during his South Pacific trip in July.

Mr Lafleur, who is the territory's member of the French lower house of parliament, said after meeting him in Paris that because of the Iraq issue Mr Chirac now appears to have put off the visit to Australia.

No firm dates have been given for the trip which is to include an official visit to New Caledonia and French Polynesia where Pacific Island leaders are invited for a summit.

Mr Lafleur told a New Caledonian newspaper that next year Mr Chirac may visit Australia as well as New Zealand.