30 Jan 2012

French overseas territories minister visiting French Polynesia

6:46 am on 30 January 2012

France says the overseas territories minister Marie-Luce Penchard will arrive in French Polynesia for a five-day visit this weekend.

This comes amid an unprecedented economic decline in the territory, whose pro-independence leadership is at loggerheads with Paris over proposed cuts to the public sector.

It also coincides with a political dispute over the aftermath of the French nuclear weapons testing regime and Tahiti's continued campaign for it to be reinscribed on the UN decolonisation list.

Last week, the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, rebuffed any suggestion he could back pro-independence parties in overseas territories, in what was widely seen as a remark aimed at French Polynesia's leaders.

Mrs Penchard also comes in the lead-up to the French presidential election, with the opposition in Tahiti endorsing Mr Sarkozy while the ruling coalition siding with the Socialists' Francois Hollande.