FRENCH ROLE IN SOLOMONS SEEN AS SENSITIVE

SYDNEY, Australia (ABC News Online, July 3) - Australia said France is welcome to help with intervention in Solomon Islands but is concerned French troops could look neo-colonial.

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said talks about a French role are only preliminary.

The French Government said it would be willing to contribute police or troops to the Australian-led intervention.

Downer told the ABC that France could have some role in the Solomons because it is involved in the Pacific community.

"The French do have some capacities in New Caledonia in terms of some limited military capacity, but they have police and other support that they might be able to provide if that turns out to be appropriate," he said. "They've certainly been very willing to be helpful. That's very much appreciated by us."

But Downer said France's colonial role in New Caledonia means any involvement of the French military in the Solomons would be a sensitive issue.

"I don't know whether it would be French military assets made available," he said.

"That would depend on a lot of factors but some sort of French involvement - France is a partner in the Pacific. It's part of the Pacific community. It's a slightly sensitive issue bearing in mind the history of what's happened in New Caledonia."

July 4, 2003

ABC News Online: http://abc.net.au/news/ 

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