NEWS FROM NEW CALEDONIA

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Wednesday, June 30, 1999

PINA Nius Online

HIGHLIGHTS

LAFLEUR ADMITTED TO NOUMEA HOSPITAL

NOUMEA, New Caledonia (June 30, 1999 - PINA Nius Online)---Prominent New Caledonia political figure, Jacques Lafleur, was admitted to the Gaston Bourret Territorial hospital on Tuesday complaining of respiratory trouble, the daily newspaper Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes reported.

The newspaper said Lafleur, who is President of the Anti-independence Rally for New Caledonia within the French Republic (RPCR) and a member of the French National Assembly, decided to stay under observation at the hospital until the end of this week.

Sources close to Lafleur said his condition is "satisfactory," but since the MP's schedule was particularly busy for the past few several months, he would probably have to take a rest for a "sufficiently long period."

ALL DOMESTIC FLIGHTS CANCELED BUT ONE ON TUESDAY

NOUMEA, New Caledonia (June 30, 1999 - PINA Nius Online)---All New Caledonia domestic flights, except one, were canceled as a strike crippling the French Territory goes unresolved, Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes reported here Wednesday.

As they did last week, strikers of the USTKE (Union of Exploited Kanak Workers) blocked the tarmac with tractors, making it impossible for planes to take off.

USTKE is protesting the recruitment of an external, non-indigenous worker to a position they claim was to have been reserved to one of their members on an internal promotion basis.

The management claims the recruited person was the only one to satisfy the job profile requirements.

Talks between the union and the management collapsed last week.

An attorney was sent to the premises to officially take note of the blockade situation, while the Noumea tribunal ruled that strikers should pay some 100,000 Pacific Francs (US$ 1,000) per blockade per day.

Strikers were summoned to appear before the court on Wednesday morning.

The only plane operating on Tuesday left for the Isle of Pines and Lifou island (Loyalty group, northeast of Noumea) to carry back some 20 tourists who had to catch connecting international flights back to their home countries.

At around 7 p.m. Tuesday, pickets were lifted.

Flights were expected to resume normally on Wednesday, but travelers were advised to phone Air Calédonie prior to making any travel plans.

391,364 TONS OF NICKEL EXPORTED FROM NEW CALEDONIA IN APRIL

NOUMEA, New Caledonia (June 30, 1999 - PINA Nius Online)---New Caledonia exported some 391,364 tons of nickel ore during the month of April, totaling 1.1 million tons since the beginning of the year, the daily newspaper Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes reported.

The nickel ore extracted during April contained 5,556 tons of pure nickel, and a total of 16,059 tons since the beginning of the year.

However, the statistics were a setback compared to the same period last year, which pulled in 1.3 million tons of ore and 19,847 tons of pure metal.

In April 1999, the main buyers of New Caledonian nickel were Japan (219,175 tons) and Australia (172,189 tons).

Meanwhile, in the northern nickel mine of Naketi (near the village of Canala), a protest movement led by angry traditional landowners has been paralyzing operations since May 18.

The landowners, supported by some workers on the mining site belonging to the powerful Ballande conglomerate, disapprove of a restructuring plan which would leave half of the 30 employees jobless.

Roadblocks were erected last week on the site's access ways, by both strikers and workers who wanted to fight for their right to work.

This bulletin was produced by the Pacific Islands News Association (PINA). Editor: Patrick Antoine DECLOITRE For more information, contact Nina RATULELE, PINA Administrator, at pina@is.com.fj

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