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PAPE‘ETE, French Polynesia (Oct. 9, 2002 - Oceania Flash)---French Polynesia's President Gaston Flosse and French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin last week sealed an agreement whereby France will grant a yearly 150 million Euro to its French Pacific territory, Flosse told a press conference over the weekend.

The new pact is to take effect this Jan. 1. It replaces a system that had been set up in 1996 to compensate French Polynesia for the economic impact of the dismantling of the nuclear testing facilities of Moruroa and Fangataufa.

Although the so-called "restructuring fund" was initially designed to last until 2006, after renewed talks with the French government it was agreed it should now be permanent and help the Pacific territory's economy diversify and become more self-sufficient.

Under the new system, the "FREP" (French Polynesia's economic restructuring fund) will be integrated into the territory's budget, Flosse told a press conference upon return from Paris.

He also said earlier differences regarding the construction of a $300-million hospital in the capital Pape'ete had now been ironed out after talks with French construction company Bouygues.

Flosse also said that while in Paris he met French President Jacques Chirac and Overseas Minister Brigitte Girardin to further talk on a planned change of status for French Polynesia.

The change would grant French Polynesia more autonomy and turn it into a French "overseas country" after relevant changes to the French Constitution

While the French Senate is scheduled to study a draft on those constitutional changes as early as late this month, the French State Council is to also deliver a ruling this week on its view on the matter.

The French Cabinet is also to include the matter on its agenda on Oct. 16.

While in Paris, Flosse started to lobby French members of both Houses, the National Assembly (lower) and Senate (upper).

"We believe there will be requests for amendments, both in the Senate and National Assembly. And we believe Parliament is the place where lobbying has to be made. This is why I have met so many Parliamentarians," Flosse said.

He said the current draft was not entirely to his satisfaction, especially concerning a proposed French Polynesian citizenship.

But he was hopeful his Pacific territory could obtain more powers, including in terms of foreign policy, "if the opportunity to enter into agreements with our Pacific neighbors arises. "

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