SUVA, Fiji (Oceania Flash, July 17) - A platoon from the Tongan Defense Service is currently engaged in joint military commando training with French armed forces in New Caledonia (FANC), Télé-Nouvelle-Calédonie reports.

Earlier this month, the TDS took part in the Bastille Day military parade in the capital Nouméa, while FANC Commander, two-star General Pierre de Saqui de Sannes was in Tonga to take part in King Tupo'u IV's 85th birthday celebrations.

French Forces, however, pointed out the current training in New Caledonia had been scheduled a long time ago and that there was "no link" with the regional intervention currently mounted and which aims to restore public law and order in the Solomon Islands, probably as soon as July 24.

France, to date, has not been asked to take part in the regional force to the Solomons, which is being coordinated by Australia, with the support of New Zealand, Fiji, Papua New Guinea and other Pacific Island Forum member states.

"For us, to train with the French army is very important, because this way, we can get to know each other better and you never know, if we have to serve together, we'll be more efficient", TDS Lieutenant Maama Misi said.

"They really have a good level, they are interested, they are motivated, physically they are strong too", French Army instructor, Staff Sergeant Elisio Dartoen, said.

July 18, 2003

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