FRENCH OVERSEAS BUDGET EARMARKS US$ 38 MILLION FOR NEW CALEDONIA

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NOUMÉA, New Caledonia (October 31, 2001 - Oceania Flash/SPC)---France's National Assembly this week approved over one billion U.S. dollars for its overseas departments and territories in its 2002 budget, including US$ 38 million for its southwest Pacific territory of New Caledonia, Télé Nouvelle Calédonie reports.

The amount is an eleven percent increase compared to the 2001 budget.

New Caledonia's President Pierre Frogier expressed appreciation at the announcement, but pointed out some of the funds that were part of the 2001 budget (especially those relating to the cost of a gradual transfer of powers from the metropolitan France to local authorities) had not yet been paid.

French State Secretary for Overseas Territories, Christian Paul, told RFO in Paris that those funds would be transferred "as soon as the relevant agreements are signed and competencies transferred."

"The state will not avoid its responsibilities," he said.

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