4 May 2009

French President still scheduled to visit New Caledonia in July

10:41 am on 4 May 2009

Reports from Noumea say the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, is still scheduled to visit New Caledonia at the end of July and host a summit with Pacific Island leaders before making an official visit to Australia on August the 1st.

The planned summit with Pacific leaders in Noumea would be less than a week before Australia hosts the Pacific Islands Forum in Cairns.

It will also mark the first visit to the Pacific by a French President

since 2003 when Jacques Chirac hosted leaders from all regional countries, except Australia, in French Polynesia.

Australia's absence was in part explained by French reservations about Australia only months earlier joining the US and Britain to invade Iraq.

Anti-independence parties in New Caledonia and French Polynesia have on several occasions announced that the UMP leader Sarkozy would visit but this never happened.

Last March, the French prime minister, Francois Fillon, was due to be in Noumea but the visit was put off to an unspecified date.