4 Sep 2006

Visiting French Minister says Paris will stick to agreement over voter eligibility

5:59 am on 4 September 2006

The French agriculture and fisheries minister, Dominique Bussereau has told New Caledonia's anti-independence leaders that France will keep its word over restricting voter eligibility in line with the undertakings of the 1998 Noumea accord.

The anti-independence party, the Rassemblement-UMP, wants any French citizen to be given voting rights after 10 years in New Caledonia, but the Kanaks say the Noumea accord restricts voting in provincial elections to those who were on the 1998 roll.

The Rassemblement-UMP leader, Pierre Frogier, used the minister's visit to Noumea to restate his party's opposition to any adjustment, but Mr Bussereau said the state would keep its word.

The matter has seen a challenge in the constitutional court, prompting President Jacques Chirac to promise in 2003 that a solution to the dispute would be found by the time his term ends next year.

Mr Bussereau has also vowed to support some agricultural niche production in New Caledonia, such as shrimp and coffee.