1 Apr 2004

French diplomat denies spying in Fiji

10:14 am on 1 April 2004

The French embassy in Fiji is denying reports its staff were spies.

The Fiji Times reported France used its embassy in Suva as a safe haven for three French diplomats after they were released from a hostage ordeal in Algeria.

It quoted Fiji's foreign minister as saying that using Fiji as a sleeper base would not be tolerated.

The reports had threatened to overshadow yesterday's appointment of France's new ambassador to Fiji.

Denis Pelbois, the Charge d'Affaires at the French Embassy in Suva, says the accountant there, Mr Thevenot, was one of the former hostages.

But Mr Pelbois says the diplomat had worked in other French missions in the years after his hostage ordeal:

"Then, later, he applied for the job in Fiji, but I don't understand by what process someone who was a hostage suddenly becomes a spy, which is of course, absolutely nonsense."

Fiji's Minister for foreign affairs was not available for comment.