16 Dec 2009

French defence minister cancels Tahiti visit

12:31 pm on 16 December 2009

The French defence minister, Herve Morin, has cancelled this week's planned visit to French Polynesia, citing the need to attend next week's cabinet meeting.

Mr Morin was due to arrive in Tahiti in three days and be the first defence minister in 20 years to visit the former nuclear weapons test site of Moruroa.

He has instructed some of his officials to go instead and meet elected representatives and test veterans groups to talk about the compensation law drawn up for some of those suffering poor health as a result of the nuclear fallout.

Mr Morin says he will make the visit early next year but no date has been set.

The cancellation comes just days after the territory's biggest church called for a march this weekend to coincide with the planned visit.

The Maohi Protestant church is opposed to the proposed compensation law, saying that Paris plans to turn a page on nuclear testing while questions remain unanswered about the people's health and the environment.

Other French ministers to cancel their visits to the Pacific this year include the prime minister, Francois Fillon.

The President, Nicolas Sarkozy, also abandoned his plan to visit the region.