FRENCH OVERSEAS MINISTER GIRARDIN TO TAHITI THIS WEEK

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PAPE'ETE, French Polynesia (August 20, 2002 - Oceania Flash)---French Minister for Overseas Territories Brigitte Girardin will be in French Polynesia later this week for a four-day visit, the daily newspaper Les Nouvelles de Tahiti reports.

Girardin is scheduled to arrive in Pape'ete on August 23, as part of her first trip to the Pacific region.

High on the agenda for talks with local top officials, including territorial President Gaston Flosse, is legislation requiring an amendment to the French Constitution that would change French Polynesia from an "overseas territory" to an "overseas country."

Legal experts on both sides are currently working on the proposed political change that would increase French Polynesia’s autonomy.

Another matter on the agenda is a follow-up to earlier talks in Paris between Girardin and Flosse, who had agreed that a so-called "reconversion fund" granted by France to allow French Polynesia to diversify its economy and become more self-sufficient would no longer expire in 2006, as earlier foreseen.

The fund, dubbed "post-CEP", was created in 1996, after the nuclear testing facilities of Moruroa and Fangataufa (the Pacific Experimentation Center - CEP) were dismantled.

Its goal was to provide subsidies similar to fiscal support resulting from CEP and to encourage "infrastructure investment."

Sources in New Caledonia anticipate that Girardin will schedule a visit to that French Pacific territory sometime in September.

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