4 Oct 2005

French negotiator says Wallis averted catastrophe

3:36 pm on 4 October 2005

The French negotiatior sent to Wallis to deal with a rebellion in support of the king has left the island and is to brief Paris.

Louis Lefranc was sent from New Caledonia after armed supporters of the 86-year-old king paralysed the island to prevent rival clans from installing another king.

Mr Lefranc changed the French prefect's position to state that France recognised the Lavelua Tomasi Kulimoetoke as the island's only traditional king.

He has told the local broadcaster RFO that Wallis almost suffered a catastrophe and added that the crisis was far from over as reconciliation is needed.

Mr Lefranc says the priority for the French state is to ensure peace and that French law is respected.

There are no reports of any arrests or charges in connection with the armed roadblocks, the vandalism that forced the closure of the airport or the destruction of property.