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NOUMEA, New Caledonia (August 12, 1997 - PACNEWS)---The pro-independence FLNKS front in New Caledonia has called on the South Pacific Forum to continue to support its struggle for New Caledonian independence from France.

FLNKS leader Roch Wamytan renewed the plea to members of the special Forum committee now visiting the French Melanesian territory.

Wamytan criticized what he called "French government manipulation" of some Pacific Islands region governments, in an effort to keep New Caledonia French. He charged France with telling Pacific leaders that New Caledonia still is not ready for independence.

The three-nation Forum mission arrived in Noumea Monday and immediately began meetings with local political party leaders. The special committee is comprised of representatives of Fiji, the Solomon Islands, and Papua New Guinea.

In addition to the FLNKS. the committee plans meetings with representatives of the French government, the anti-independence RCPR, and others.

The group's report on New Caledonia's readiness for a planned 1998 referendum on the territory's future political status will be presented to the annual meeting of South Pacific Forum leaders next month in Rarotonga, Cook Islands.

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