NEW CALEDONIA NEWS

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Wednesday, September 15, 1999
PINA Nius Online

NEW CALEDONIA'S PRESIDENT DENIES RESIGNATION RUMORS

NOUMÉA, September 15 (PINA Nius Online) - New Caledonia's President, Jean Lèques, has denied persistent rumors that he is about to resign, the daily the newspaper Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes reports.

"This rumor is baseless," New Caledonian government's Secretary-General Bernard Deladrière said in a release Tuesday.

"The President was elected for five years and doesn't intend at all to resign. And there isn't any no confidence motion that has been filed by a majority of Cabinet members," the release continued.

Lèques became New Caledonia's first President last June. He is also Lord Mayor of Nouméa.

 

NEW CALEDONIAN ARMED FORCES ASKED TO DEVISE SCENARIOS FOR EAST TIMOR

NOUMÉA, New Caledonia (September 15, 1999 - PINA Nius Online)---New Caledonia's armed forces (FANC) and their commander, General Xavier de Zuchowicz, are studying possible scenarios pertaining to possible participation in a multinational intervention in East Timor that would involve France through its Pacific territories, the daily newspaper Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes reports.

"The request came from the Paris Etat-Major," de Zuchowicz told a press conference on Tuesday.

He is developing options for logistic, humanitarian and combat support in the troubled Indonesian province for Paris to consider, in accordance with any decision by the United Nations' Security Council.

"We're just thinking, planning and suggesting solutions to the politicians," he said.

"After Wednesday’s regular Council of Ministers meeting, a special Cabinet meeting dedicated to the situation in East Timor " is to take place the same day in Paris, Prime Minister Lionel Jospin said on French national television Monday.

French Foreign Minister Hubert Védrine said earlier this week that France was ready to participate in a multinational force in East Timor, in a form yet to be "exactly determined" by Jospin and President Jacques Chirac.

Options devised in New Caledonia by de Zuchowicz and his team would be assessed if the call is made.

Four officers from FANC's Etat-Major left earlier this week for Australia, where they are to meet with Australian army representatives and coordinate a possible intervention in East Timor.

The Nouméa-based frigate Vendémiaire left for East Timor last Saturday with ninety crewmembers on board. It has the capacity to evacuate personnel and provide medical treatment and, if necessary, disembark soldiers there.

"In France, the armed forces are mainly busy with Kosovo. Therefore, there are not enough resources there," de Zuchowicz said.

"There is also the desire to show that France is in the Pacific, is here to stay and, therefore, feels a duty to take part in operations that concern this geographical zone," de Zuchowicz added.

Coincidentally, de Zuchowicz met Indonesian Consul General Mas Soedajat during a long-scheduled protocol visit.

The situation in East Timor was not on the agenda.

French forces in the Pacific include six navy vessels (three frigates, including the Vendémiaire and a light transport) and about 3,000 men. Over a quarter of these are normally France-based, 120-men units of "roving" companies of the infantry, marines and Foreign Legion troops who are sent to the French Pacific on four-month assignments.

It is estimated that if France were to take part in East Timor operations, it would send "two to three" of those combat units, probably marines or legionnaires.

 

FRENCH SPORTS MINISTER INSPECTS NEW CALEDONIA'S SPORT FACILITIES AHEAD OF SYDNEY OLYMPICS

NOUMÉA, September 15 (PINA Nius Online) - French Youth and Sports Minister Marue-George Buffet made a quick stop in New Caledonia Tuesday to inspect sports facilities here. She is en route to Australia where she is to meet Olympics officials, the daily newspaper Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes reports.

Buffet, who is the only Communist minister in the Socialist-led coalition headed by French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, became famous during last July's Tour de France, when she hit the headlines with strong declarations against drug use in the scandal that marred this year's cycling competition.

She only spent thirty hours in New Caledonia, where she visited the most significant sports facilities here and assessed the territory’s preparation for the 2000 Olympics in neighboring Sydney.

"At the same time, I want to find out how I can contribute to the development of sports in New Caledonia, and if there are still some technical problems. I want us to solve them together," she told journalists here.

She also was critical of the involvement by commercial businesses in the Olympics.

"From one Olympics to another, one feels a gradual erosion of the Olympic ideal, which is being replaced by some kind of big advertising fair organized by the big companies," she said.

"We must, before anything else, place the sports people in a situation of independence from money influence and pressure."

She briefly visited New Caledonia's Northern province and, in Poindimié, the Tiédi tribe's chiefs treated her with a traditional "bougna" (a hot-stone cooked delicacy).

She stressed the need for more balance in sports facilities available in the Southern province (traditionally more developed) and the Northern province and the (Loyalty) Islands.

To make sports "accessible to everyone," she pleaded for the creation of more sports facilities, to which, she added, France could contribute at least half of the cost.

Some of the funds could be derived from a planned five percent tax on television advertising contracts for sports events in France, she said.

Revenues thus collected would then be redistributed in the form of subsidies to French amateur sports clubs.

The bill is to be officially presented by Buffet to the French Cabinet on September 29, and later tabled in the National Assembly.

Buffet left New Caledonia on Wednesday for Sydney, where she will spend four days visiting most of the 2000 Olympics sports facilities.

While in Australia, she is expected to sign a cooperation agreement with authorities on the fight against drug use in sports competitions.

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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