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PAPEETE, Tahiti (Oceania Flash, Dec. 1) – French Polynesia's pro-independence leader, Oscar Temaru, on Tuesday blamed his political rival, Gaston Flosse, and French Minister For Overseas Territories Brigitte Girardin for a breakdown in talks in Paris aimed at solving a tense standoff over political leadership in Tahiti.

In an interview with French national newspaper Libération, Temaru said both Flosse and Girardin were "jointly taking the risk to let instability set in" in French Polynesia.

Temaru said he had displayed "good will" in traveling to Paris to respond to Girardin's invitation to attend the talks.

He said he had also made a major concession when he gave up an earlier demand that French Polynesia's local assembly be dissolved as a precondition.

But he said the major stumbling block had been on the electoral mode any further election should follow in French Polynesia.

Temaru also said, last week, he had called on his party colleagues, back in French Polynesia, to leave government offices and buildings they were occupying.

"These elected members have effectively left the buildings, but our militants have refused to leave and I can understand them... There's not much more I can do than this", he said.

Earlier this week, Flosse left the negotiating table in Paris, saying his government's offices were still occupied by militants and that his patience had now "run out".

60-year-old Temaru also said he was not opposed to one of Girardin's latest suggestions: that all of French Polynesia's official buildings be placed under French police guard, pending general elections.

"I think it is in effect France's responsibility to ensure these public premises remain neutral. I just wish (Girardin) had offered this earlier. This may have spared us yet another of Gaston's tantrums".

Regarding any resumption of talks on possible fresh elections, Temaru said he first wanted to "consult with (his) people".

"But I'm afraid some of them have already chosen to go for confrontation".

Girardin, speaking on Tuesday during debates at the French National Assembly (lower house of Parliament) in Paris, stressed that she remained available whenever talks (between Flosse and Temaru) can resume".

She reiterated an earlier statement that in her view, talks were only "suspended, not broken".

"What they have already signed is in itself a testimony of important progress made in the settlement of the current crisis in French Polynesia. Now everyone agrees on the principle of general elections and accepts that the only possible way to achieve this is legal, through the enactment of an organic law", she told French MPs.

"Everyone also admitted that the dissolution was not the way to go about things, because it would bring us to another impasse and the French State Council would probably nullify this", she added.

But she also admitted that no consensus had yet emerged as to the date of the planned elections.

While Temaru wanted the elections to take place as soon as practicable, Flosse said he would prefer an eighteen months timeframe.

"However, I don't believe (a solution) is out of reach ... The first priority now is to work on finalising an organic law".

Girardin also called on Temaru to "respect his commitments" and "...quickly...have all illegally occupied premises liberated".

In return according to Girardin, Flosse would have accepted not to move in and French Polynesia's government buildings would therefore become "neutral" ground, under the supervision of French mobile gendarmes.

"So if everyone puts a bit of goodwill, we will effectively achieve a serene climate there ... My role is to favour a consensus and in no way to impose any given solution, the French minister said".

Meanwhile, Flosse was one of the first French Polynesian leaders to return to the capital Pape'ete on Wednesday (Tuesday local time).

He told local media Temaru's word "has no value, so we came back".

He also said he believed, while taking part in the Paris talks, he had "made concessions", because he had "accepted that general elections be held".

Back in Pape'ete, the situation is reported to remain tense, with an additional feeling of disappointment from the general public.

On Monday, in Paris, talks to decide on a date for fresh general elections in French Polynesia have been "suspended" as President Gaston Flosse decided to leave the negotiating table and fly back to the French Pacific country.

On Monday also, a deadline earlier imposed by France's State Council (the highest administrative tribunal) for all of French Polynesia's government buildings to be vacated by protesters, had lapsed.

The liberation was a prerequisite to the continuation of talks in the French capital.

But several key buildings in the capital Pape'ete (including the President's office) remained occupied by defiant militants, in spite of earlier calls by former President Oscar Temaru to vacate the premises.

Since early October, French Polynesia had undergone a major crisis that started with the ousting of Oscar Temaru (who was elected President in June, only to be toppled by a motion of no confidence less than four months later) and the return to power of his long-time foe, Gaston Flosse.

Temaru's supporters have since moved to blockade several government buildings.

Since last week, both Flosse and Temaru had responded to an invitation by French minister for overseas, Brigitte Girardin, for talks aimed at finding a lasting solution to the crisis.

At the weekend, participants were apparently agreeing on the principle of fresh general elections, so that clearer majorities could emerge in the local Parliament, the 57-seat legislative assembly, where both Flosse and Temaru's parties, the Tahoeraa Huiraatira and the Tavini Huiraatira, only enjoy very small majorities.

Last week, the State Council has already ruled that French Polynesia's main constituency, the Windward Islands group (that includes the main island of Tahiti), a total of 37 of the 57 seats in the House, were null and void.

But another condition for the talks' success was that the occupied government premises, in Pape'ete, would be freed by Monday noon, local time.

This did not happen: although all of Temaru's elected MPs and politicians had decided to comply with the rule, hard-line Temaru supporters earlier this week remained defiant, saying they would only leave when the assembly is dissolved.

French Polynesia's last general elections were held in May this year.

December 1, 2004

Oceania Flash: E-mail/Courriel: padec@iname.com 


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