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NOUMÉA, New Caledonia (April 24, 2002 – Radio Australia)---A spokesman for New Caledonia's pro-independence coalition, the FLNKS, has expressed disappointment at the surprise defeat of socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin in the first round of the French presidential election.

The FLNKS had urged its supporters to vote for Mr. Jospin in order to ensure continuity of the implementation of the Nouméa Accord.

The accord, which sets a timetable for the decolonization of New Caledonia, was brokered and signed under French socialist governments.

FLNKS spokesman Victor Tutugoro told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat program that the decolonization process was only meaningful if all the conditions of the Nouméa Accord were implemented.

With incumbent President Jacques Chirac expected to be returned, Mr. Tutugoro said the pro-independence coalition feared one crucial provision of the Accord might not go ahead.

It is the one that would limit voting in New Caledonia elections and referenda to people with at least 10 years residency in 1998 -- a measure to protect indigenous Kanaks who had become a minority in their country.

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

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