16 Mar 2006

Futuna's kings visit Paris - seek end to isolation

4:13 pm on 16 March 2006

The two kings from the French Pacific island of Futuna have called for the island's opening up from its isolation during their meeting with the French overseas territories minister in Paris, Francois Baroin.

The two kings, Tui Agaifo and Tui Sigave, have been part of a larger delegation which included the territory's two members of the French legislature, Victor Brial and Senator Robert Laufoaulu.

A delegation member has told the news agency AFP about the island's isolation because of intermittent cyclones and the need to rely on a single small plane to link it to neighbouring Wallis.

Mr Baroin was reportedly favourably inclined to a suggestion to make Futuna a sub-prefecture to allow it to run its own affairs.

Futuna has a population of about 5,000 and chooses new kings about every four years.

On neighbouring Wallis, the current king has been in power since 1959.

A French-backed attempt to replace him last year prompted an armed rebellion by his backers and forced France to reconfirm his status.