24 Oct 2006

French riot police restore order in Papeete

4:23 pm on 24 October 2006

French riot police have taken control of the presidental palace in French Polynesia after striking unionists and members of the GIP intervention force occupied the building and its grounds overnight.

The strikers requested the immediate return of President Oscar Temaru from the Forum summit in Fiji to negotiate over their demands to have lower prices and the dissolution of the assembly.

Mr Temaru refused to give in and the government asked the French high commission to restore law and order.

Reports say police faced no resistance when it broke the chains to win access to the palace.

The strikers continue to occupy other government building, including the territorial assembly.

The occupation followed an 11-day strike during which Papeete was intermittently cut off by illegal road blocks.

Today's police action marks the first time that the French government has used police to break up illegal anti-government blockades since the Temaru administration came to power last year.