TINY FUTUNA WELCOMES 1ST VISIT BY FRENCH

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MINISTER

By Patrick Antoine Decloitre

SUVA, Fiji (Oceania Flash, Sept. 27) – The French government's overseas State Secretary, Chirstian Estrosi, has scheduled a three-day visit to the French Pacific territory of Wallis and Futuna Futuna, between October 14 and 16, the French Administrator administration revealed on Wednesday.

The French government's representative on the islands, Richard Didier, made the announcement as he was visiting the island of Futuna.

The announcement was welcomed by the two Kings of Futuna, who head the kingdoms of Alo and Sigave.

The chiefs said they were pleased to see that for the first time, a French government minister will visit Futuna first, instead of Wallis, and that he will even spend one night on their tiny island.

"This is a first and goes to show how much the French Republic is attached to Futuna and its two Chiefly clans. I have therefore met the two Kings to discuss with them arrangements and also see what how they would like to organise the ministerial visit here, including on the custom and tradition side", Didier told local television RFO.

On Futuna, Estrosi would visit existing French-funded projects, including the much-anticipated construction of an upgraded airstrip for Futuna's small airport of Vele, for which the French minister is to lay the foundation stone.

Estrosi's visit will also be an opportunity to discuss a few other issues, including Wallis and Futuna's hosting of the 2013 Pacific Mini-Games.

The French Pacific territory has earlier this month been chosen to host the 2013 Mini-Games.

However, it is now understood local authorities are now asking for further French assistance in order to build the necessary sport and accommodation infrastructure to host the regional event, which will also be a first for Wallis in Futuna's history.

Estrosi's visit to Wallis and Futuna will take place as part of a wider regional trip that will take him to neighbouring Nukualofa (Tonga), where he will lead the French delegation at the Pacific Islands Forum leaders' annual summit.

After the Forum leaders' summit, Estrosi is also scheduled to visit the other French Pacific territory of New Caledonia.

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