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PAPE‘ETE, French Polynesia (September 9, 2001 - Tahitipresse/PINA Nius Online)---French Polynesia President Gaston Flosse and Jean-Charles Corbet, manager of the French airline AOM, have had a second meeting in Paris, seeking cooperation on the Pape‘ete-Paris air route.

AOM has been trying to stop Air Tahiti Nui from inaugurating services on the route.

But Mr. Corbet said after the meeting, that he wishes "ATN and AOM to be both successful."

Mr. Flosse declared that this second encounter "made it possible to go further with the idea of a real partnership."

Planning for Air Tahiti Nui to acquire a second Airbus aircraft and begin services on the route began after AOM services were put in jeopardy by the airline’s financial problems.

Mr. Flosse said the services linking Paris and Pape‘ete are vital for Tahiti's economically important tourism industry.

Two other French airlines, Corsair and Air France, fly weekly between Papeete and Paris.

For additional reports from Tahiti Press, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Other News Sources: Agence Tahitienne de Presse.

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PAPE‘ETE, French Polynesia (September 9, 2001 - Oceania Flash/SPC)---French Polynesia's Assembly strongly reacted to an announcement made in Paris last week that Air France and recently-salvaged AOM airlines would jointly operate flights to the French Pacific territory, without the involvement of local flag carrier Air Tahiti Nui, the French Polynesian Presidential office said.

The statement results from an Assembly resolution, which expressed "disapproval" and "indignation" at statements made earlier . . . by Jean-Charles Corbet, a former Air France pilot who last took over French overseas line AOM."

Speaking from Paris after an interview with French Secretary of State for Overseas Administrations Christian Paul, Corbet was reported as saying "There is no room for a third operator between metropolitan France and French Polynesia."

Corbet said he intended to "fight" Air Tahiti Nui (ATN).

ATN intends to introduce more direct international flights and to buy a second Airbus.

"This project is suicidal and it jeopardizes the 3,200 employees of AOM, who would suffer from the resulting commercial war between Air France-AOM and ATN."

"Air Tahiti Nui only survives thanks to its territorial subsidies and the wish from Mr. (Gaston) Flosse (the president) to have a toy that flatters his ego."

The Assembly said Corbet's statements were "aggressive" and "insulting."

"A sufficient, reliable and sustainable airline is not a toy. It is not a status symbol. It is a vital necessity for French Polynesia," the Assembly said.

It noted that the Australian airline Qantas was no longer flying to French Polynesia and, in 1998, Air France had closed its Pape'ete-Tokyo route.

"We have lost two weekly flights and our needs have increased."

According to local authorities, the recent AOM crisis, which brought the French company close to bankruptcy, caused "a loss of confidence which cost our tourism industry 700 million CFP."

In the past few months, in the light of the French airline's crisis, French Polynesia's President Gaston Flosse decided to further develop, as a matter of priority, direct flights by Air Tahiti Nui (ATN) to the French Pacific territory's main tourism markets, including metropolitan France.

"Experience has shown that links to our country by international airlines are indispensable, but not sufficient."

"We never intended to replace existing airlines. On the contrary, we wish that they be maintained, they develop and prosper. We are even ready to strike a code-sharing deal with Air France, just like we were ready to do so with AOM," the Assembly noted.

The war of words erupted after ATN announced it wanted to be a partner in the Pape'ete-Paris links in an effort to secure two weekly flights effective "March or April 2002."

"If Mr. Corbet wants an all-out commercial war, he will get it," the Assembly members said.

Meanwhile, ATN's Airbus A-340 was grounded last week on Tahiti's Faa'a International Airport tarmac, due to a technical problem with its undercarriage.

The company expected the plane to be back in operation soon.

President Flosse was also in Japan last week with ATN Chairman Nelson Levy and Tourism minister Nicole Bouteau.

They told a press conference that there will be two more direct ATN flights to Japan by May next year, bringing the frequency to three times a week.

Corbet and Flosse now are due to meet in Paris later this week.

Discussions also are scheduled to be held in Paris that would bring together French Transport Minister Jean-Claude Gayssot, Air France, Flosse and Corbet.

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