NEW CALEDONIA NICKEL ISSUE MISSES DEADLINE

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NOUMEA, New Caledonia (June 29, 2000 - Oceania Flash/SPC)---French Overseas Minister Jean-Jack Queyranne admitted a June 30 deadline earlier fixed by the French government to find a solution to the crucial nickel issue couldn’t be met, the daily newspaper Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes reported.

As part of the Noumea Accord paving the way for possible independence of the French territory, France is to fund the transfer of shares from French nickel giant Eramet company and its subsidiary Société Le Nickel (SLN) to local authorities.

But one condition was that a prior agreement be reached between the three provinces of the territory on the setting up of a so-called STCPI (Société territoriale calédonienne de participation industrielle) participation agreement.

STCPI was to have taken place before June 30, but parties failed to reach an agreement.

"The French government's wish is that an agreement be reached, allowing New Caledonian interests to enter SLN and Eramet stock. The foundation is laid, but a number of questions remain to be solved," Queyranne said in Paris after a meeting with Pierre Frogier, New Caledonia's southern province anti-independence RPCR (Rally for New Caledonia within the French Republic) leader.

Frogier, who is a member of the French National Assembly, was attending a parliamentary session.

Queyranne noted that dividends were to have been distributed to New Caledonia on June 30.

"This won't happen at this date, but it would be good if this issue was solved during the French summer. In the interest of New Caledonia, this issue must no longer be dealt with in political terms, but in economic and financial terms," Frogier said.

Queyranne re-scheduled the deadline to September.

For additional reports from Orientation Oceania, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Other News Sources/Orientation Oceania.

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