15 Oct 2007

French high commissioner in New Caledonia resigns after disagreeing with minister

8:22 pm on 15 October 2007

Reports from New Caledonia say the French high commissioner, Michel Mathieu, has tendered his resignation because of disagreements with the visiting junior French minister last week.

No official reason has been given for the resignation but local press reports say he asked to be relieved from his post after the new minister in charge of overseas territories, Christian Estrosi, sought the authorities' intervention against a union rally outside the high commission.

The reports say Mr Mathieu was concerned about the possible fallout from confronting the unionists who staged a strike.

His resignation is yet to be officially acknowledged, with a replacement to be named by the government in Paris.

During his stay, Mr Estrosi vowed to toughen the state's stance in the face of frequent union-led blockades of businesses.

He also said a follow-up meeting of the signatories of the 1998 Noumea Accord on greater autonomy will be convened before the end of year amid attempts by the anti-independence UMP/Rassemblement to question the constitutionally binding provisions of the accord.