20 Apr 2011

French PM invites New Caledonia leaders

1:36 pm on 20 April 2011

The French prime minister, Francois Fillon, has invited all political parties represented in New Caledonia's Congress to see him in Paris next month for discussions about the territory's political crisis.

Mr Fillon's invitation follows last week's three-day visit to Noumea by the overseas territories minister, Marie-Luce Penchard, who briefed him on return from New Caledonia about her consultations with the territory's leaders.

New Caledonia has seen four collegial governments collapse in two months, with the territory being administered by a caretaker government.

The crisis stems from a dispute over which flag the territory should use to express its identity as it is being decolonised.

A Congress majority has decided to defer any further and scheduled election until Paris has amended the 1999 organic law to stop the possibility of more sudden resignations.

The three last ones were by the Caledonia Together Party, which wants an early general election, but Paris has decided against it .

The prime minister's office says he wants to hold the Paris meetings to understand the New Caledonians' position and to prepare the next gathering of the signatories of the Noumea Accord, which is the roadmap leading to a possible independence referendum after 2014.