25 Jul 2003

French leader queried on who qualifies to vote in future New Caledonian polls

5:19 pm on 25 July 2003

In a welcoming speech to French President Jacques Chirac this morning in Kone, the president of New Caledonia's northern province, Paul Neaoutyine, has questioned France's stance on who should be allowed to vote in future Territorial elections.

The pro-independence FLNKS party wants the electoral corps for future elections to be frozen.

However Mr Chirac says the issue is a legally complex and politically sensitive one.

He says that France cannot offer any solutions and that it's up to New Caledonia to find a solution that is acceptable to everyone.

In Kone the president also met with executives of New Caledonia's three main nickel mining and processing projects.

He reiterated that France sees the project planned in the northern province as a priority for the economic rebalancing of the territory.

President Chirac, who flys to French Polynesia tomorrow, says France will support the Northern Province in its choices.