The French high commissioner in New Caledonia has cancelled all public engagements for a week amid renewed controversy over the make-up of the electoral lists for the May provincial elections.
Jean-Jacques Brot was due to be interviewed on television last night as rival camps strongly disagree over who is entitled to vote, with the pro-independence camp calling for thousands of names to be struck off.
Reports say Mr Brot may not have been in a position to give precise answers to questions about the electoral rolls or the planned UN mission to the territory, which is being opposed by the dominant anti-independence camp.
A local MP has suggested Mr Brot has tried to signal to Paris that he regrets the prevarication in dealing with New Caledonia, which is poised to enter its last phase of the Noumea Accord on greater autonomy, paving the way for a possible independence referendum.
A group of ten French magistrates is due in Noumea on Thursday to check the rolls.