20 Jan 2005

New Caledonians review Noumea Accord in Paris

11:57 am on 20 January 2005

Political leaders from New Caledonia are in Paris for two days of talks to review the 1998 Noumea Accord on greater autonomy from France.

The French minister in charge of overseas territories, Brigitte Girardin, says the meeting is aimed at improving the life of the more than 200,000 inhabitants.

The accord was signed by France and the pro-independence and anti-independence movements which are both represented by two factions following rifts in their respective camps.

The key issue is to find an agreement on the make-up of the New Caledonian electorate ahead of the elections in 2009.

The accord provided that it should be frozen as not to allow immigrants to outnumber the indigenous population but this has not been approved by the French constitutional authorities.

The French president, Jacques Chirac, says the eligibility question should be resolved before the end of his term in two years.