6 Apr 2006

New Caledonian clashes near Noumea close main road for hours

1:29 pm on 6 April 2006

There have been fresh clashes in New Caledonia between French riot police and activists of the Kanak Rheebu Nuu committee after two group members were convicted for last weekend's massive destruction at the Goro Nickel site.

Police used tear gas and armoured vehicles to break up five barricades on the main road in St Louis which is about 15 kilometres from the capital, Noumea.

Police say they used about 100 tear gas grenades to clear the main road which has been blocked for seven hours.

They say the made no more arrests but still hold eight people over the weekend vandalism of vehicles and equipment which caused damage of about 10 million US dollars and prompted the company to suspend work on the site indefinitely.

The Rheebu Nuu group says the protest has been because of a lack of environmental safeguard while the New Caledonian government says the action is linked to demands for royalties to tribes in the Goro area.

All political parties have condemned the violence.

The French high commission has called a roundtable meeting for tomorrow to find a solution to the crisis.