2 Aug 2004

French Polynesia to become Forum observer

5:34 pm on 2 August 2004

The New Zealand prime minister, Helen Clark, has confirmed that French Polynesia will be admitted as an observer of the Pacific Islands Forum.

The Forum will meet in Apia this week and the French Polynesian president, Oscar Temaru, will be attending as a guest of Samoa.

The accession of French Polynesia will mark a shift in Forum policy because in the past observership was only granted to territories on a defined path to possible independence.

The move follows five years of lobbying by France and the former French Polynesian leader, Gaston Flosse.

Her announcement comes just days after the Forum secretary general, Greg Urwin, said the Forum meeting might give French Polynesia will be granted observership status within the regional organisation.

Last year, Mr Temaru was in opposition and he as well as New Caledonia's pro-independence movement were against giving French Polynesia observer status, saying they didn't want to be acting on behalf of France.

Mr Temaru will lead a delegation of at least ten to Samoa and arrive on a special flight by Wanair.