FRENCH POLYNESIA WAITS FOR FRENCH "OVERSEAS COUNTRY" STATUS

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PAPEETE, French Polynesia (February 3, 2000 - Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat)---French Polynesia may have to wait at least another year before it becomes a French "overseas country" with its own laws and citizenship like New Caledonia.

The constitutional changes paving the way for greater autonomy for the territory needed the approval of both houses of the French Parliament, which met in a joint congressional session in late January.

However, the congress has adjourned without acting on the matter.

"Overseas country" status was passed up because lawmakers wanted to first vote on another proposal dealing with France’s judicial system.

"It actually proves how little impact we have on French politics because nobody ever thought about it or gave a damn about this vote," said Alex du Prel, editor of the monthly Tahiti-Pacifique.

French Polynesian President Gaston Flosse, who was very anxious to see the measure approved, publicly downplayed the matter. He flew to Paris in an attempt to persuade French President Jacques Chirac to convene a special session of congress to vote on the matter.

No date has been set on when the vote will be taken.

Flosse, who returned from Paris earlier this week, said he’s confident the French Parliament will take up the issue before May 2001.

But du Prel said even that is doubtful since local elections will be held during that time.

For additional reports from Radio Australia/Pacific Beat, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Radio Australia/Pacific Beat.

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