18 Jan 2008

French minister welcomes police action against New Caledonian unionists

10:22 am on 18 January 2008

The French junior minister in charge of overseas territories, Christian Estrosi, has welcomed the police action in New Caledonia to confront USTKE union members.

Nearly 50 people were arrested during clashes which left nine members of the securtiy forces injured as they used tear gas and rubber bullets to dislodge hundreds of unionists.

About ten USTKE members are reported to have been injured.

They had occupied government land next to a bus depot at the center of an industrial dispute.

Mr Estrosi has praised the new high commissioner, Yves Dassonville, for initiating the crackdown after the official described the USTKE methods as hooliganism.

The unionists burnt the car of the bus company's director and also destroyed several police vehicles.

Last October, the French high commissioner in Noumea resigned after disagreeing with Mr Estrosi over how to handle an USTKE rally.