16 Jul 2012

New Caledonia marks Bastille Day with two marches

4:19 am on 16 July 2012

New Caledonia has for the first time marked Bastille Day with two marches.

Apart from the official ceremony to mark France's National Day, a rival march was held in Noumea by an estimated 3,000 people in support of the flag of the pro-independence FLNKS movement.

The 1998 Noumea Accord on greater autonomy calls for a new flag to express the territory's identity, but since 2010 both the French and Kanak flags have been jointly used on key public buildings.

In French Polynesia, the ceremony was marked by the last parade of the Tahiti-based infantry unit, which will be disbanded this week.

Its base will be closed as part of the French military's reorganisation in the region - 16 years after France carried out its last nuclear weapons test in the Pacific.