NEW CALEDONIA’S ARMED FORCES PREPARE FOR SOUTHERN CROSS EXERCISE

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NEW CALEDONIA’S ARMED FORCES PREPARE FOR SOUTHERN CROSS EXERCISE

NOUMEA, New Caledonia (November 3, 2000 – Oceania Flash/SPC)---New Caledonia’s armed forces (FANC) are preparing for their annual large-scale exercise, code named "Southern Cross." It is due to start this week, the daily newspaper Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes reported.

The exercise, which is scheduled to be held November 10 - 20, will mobilize most units of the French territory’s military, including land, navy and air forces.

This year, the northern part of the mainland was chosen as the location for the deployment. The theme pertains to providing humanitarian relief.

Ahead of the operation, FANC’s top military officers traveled to the villages close to the operations site to perform traditional "custo" ceremonies.

"On October 26, we have met the high chiefs of the north, including the Arama, Koumac and Poya tribes. We will also go and meet the high chiefs of Poindah and Koné," FANC public relations officer Bruno Dumet said.

When the deployment starts, some 750 men from the army, 170 navy personnel and 45 from the air force will take part in the exercise.

About 100 soldiers from the Australian and New Zealand armies also will participate.

This year’s exercise involves something new -- an open day aimed at having the military establish closer links with the local population.

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