30 May 2005

Opposition in French Polynesia wants inquiry into nuclear testing in the Gambier islands

6:34 am on 30 May 2005

The French Polynesian opposition has called on the assembly to open an inquiry into the effects of the French nuclear weapons tests on the population of the Gambier islands.

The demand has been made by its leader, Gaston Flosse, following the recent leak of classified defence ministry documents about a 1966 atmospheric test at Mururoa.

Walter Zweifel reports:

"The documents appear to reveal that a proposal to evacuate hundreds of civilians from nearby Mangareva was abandoned for fear that it could jeopardise the entire testing programme. The French defence ministry has not denied the authenticity of the documents but says all safety measures were in place to protect both military personnel and civilians. Mr Flosse, a long-time defender of the tests, now says the contradictions have to be explained. His surprise call for an inquiry comes as test veterans say he was on Mangareva himself on the day of the test but made a sudden and early departure with the French officials amid concern that fallout may spread from Morurua. His party hopes a report can be presented in six months."