31 Mar 2004

Fiji warns off possible spies

10:36 am on 31 March 2004

Fiji has warned that it will not tolerate foreign countries using it a base for spies.

The Fiji Times says the warning comes after reports that the French Embassy in Suva used Fiji as a safe haven for three French diplomats who were rescued after they had been taken hostage by Islamist extremists in Algeria in 1993.

The foreign minister, Kaliopate Tavola, is quoted as saying that using the country as a sleeper base was an underhand way of doing things and would not be tolerated.

The French diplomats, including husband and wife Jean-Claude and Michele Thevenot and Alain Fressier, were reported to have been sent to Fiji when the French media questioned their rescue operation.

The French embassy charge d'affaires in Suva, Denis Pelbois, says they were not spies and Mr Thevenot was an accountant who was seconded to Suva.

Mr Thevenot says they wanted to be posted in Fiji because their children live in New Caledonia.

The embassy has not confirmed whether Mr Fressier is stiull in Fiji.

Amnesty International said the Algerian forces carried out the rescue operation to give the then French Interior minister, Charles Pasqua, public support to launch a round-up of Islamic extremists.