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French president douses talk of independence

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, June 9, 2010) – The French overseas territories minister, Marie-Luce Penchard, says she believes that the French President meant French Polynesia when he spoke of independence as a red line that may not be crossed.

Mrs Penchard made the comment to the AFP news agency after concluding a four-day visit to New Caledonia which in part was aimed at helping set the agenda for talks in Paris in two weeks of the follow-up of the Noumea Accord.

New Caledonia has a five-year window from 2014 to hold a referendum on possible independence, with the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, calling for a consensus well ahead of 2014 on the territory’s future status.

A majority is in favour of retaining strong links with Paris, although the shape of the association is up for debate.

The Noumea Accord provides a decolonisation roadmap with a phased transfer of powers.

In French Polynesia, there have been renewed calls for a referendum on independence but France has ignored them.

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