NEW CALEDONIA TALKS BEGIN IN PARIS

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PARIS, France (February 25, 1998 - Radio Australia)---In Paris, an important round of negotiations has begun on the future of New Caledonia.

Radio Australia correspondent Katy Cronin reports the talks are to determine whether a referendum will be held on independence.

"The pro- and anti-independence leaders of New Caledonia have returned to the Matignon Palace in Paris to try to reach agreement on whether a referendum should be held - and if so - what the question will be.

"French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin opened the talks, which have been stalled since 1996, reminding the parties that it has been ten years since the signing of the Matignon Accords which stipulate the need to create conditions in which the people can be masters of their own destiny.

"The discussions will continue for the next two days under the guidance of the French Minister for Overseas Territories Jean Jacques Queyranne."

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