26 Sep 2005

French mediator tries to end Wallis crisis

9:54 am on 26 September 2005

A French mediator has begun talks in Wallis in a bid to end the stand-off that was triggered by plans to enthrone a new king.

The main roads on Wallis have been blocked for several days by supporters of the 86-year-old king, the Lavelua Tomasi Kulimoetoke, the international airport is closed as are schools and the public service.

The mediation effort comes after yesterday's attempt to install a new king was abandoned.

The news editor at the local broadcaster says talks began this morning amid hope that the blockades will be lifted later today.

The mediator arrived from New Caledonia in a small jet but the airport is closed for regular civilian traffic because of damage caused to it.

The bid to install a new king is the culmination of a rivalry which in June led to clashes.

Last week, there was a march in New Caledonia by hundreds of people backing the traditional king.