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Defence Minister calls for France to ‘close chapter of history’

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, June 25, 2009) – The French parliament has begun debating a landmark bill on compensating the victims of nuclear tests carried out in French Polynesia and Algeria over more than three decades.

About 150,000 civilian and military personnel took part in 210 nuclear tests carried out in the Sahara desert and the Pacific between 1960 and 1996, many of whom later developed serious health problems.

The government unveiled a bill on compensating the test victims in March, after decades of denying its responsibility for fear the admission would have weakened its nuclear program during the Cold War.

Defence Minister Herve Morin told the lower-house National Assembly that the bill, thirteen years after the end of the tests in the Pacific, will allow France to serenely close a chapter of its history.

He says France showed its greatness in the political, strategic challenge that brought us into the very small circle of nuclear power and must show greatness in its determination to repair its mistakes/

Under the bill, which is to be put to the vote on June 30, a nine-member committee of physicians, led by a magistrate, will examine individual claims for compensation.

Radio New Zealand International:

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