28 Jul 2003

French Polynesia expresses gratitude to visiting French President

7:44 am on 28 July 2003

The French Polynesian government has expressed its gratitude to the French President, Jacques Chirac, during his first day of official engagements at a special Oceania summit in Papeete.

The territory's president, Gaston Flosse, told him that his people are French and will remain French, while being attatched to their polynesian language and culture.

While supporters of Mr Flosse's Tahoeraa Huiraatira party were given access to greet Mr Chirac on his first presidential visit, armed police stopped an anti Chirac march by more than three thousand people two kilometres from the ctiy centre.

The pro independence leader, Oscar Temaru, says the police move is another sign of French occupation:

"You know at every election the French government, through Mr Gaston Flosse, put in a lot of money. We have no money ....just believe in this country, this is our country...so there is no democracy in a country occupied by another country."

Pro independence leader, Oscar Temaru

In speech shortly after his arrival, President Chirac hailed French Polynesia's role in safeguarding national security by allowing France to conduct nuclear tests in the Pacific territory.

Mr Chirac is due to meet the leaders of most of the Pacific Islands Forum countries.

New Zealand is being represented by its Foreign Minister, Phil Goff.

Australia has not sent a representative