As France prepared to set off an underground nuclear blast in the South Pacific, French officials lashed back Monday at foreign legislators joining international protests of the testing.
In Paris, French oceanographer Jacques Cousteau added his voice to the outcry, pleading with President Jacques Chirac to scratch the testing, which he said “shows the power of the nuclear lobby.”
Cousteau later announced his resignation from a government advisory body called the Council for the Rights of Future Generations, saying the “future of our descendants is … incompatible with the nuclear threat.”
Chirac says the tests are needed to update France’s nuclear arsenal and develop technology for test simulations.
The environmental group Greenpeace has been waging a war of nerves with the French military, organizing a “peace flotilla” to the atolls where the underground testing is to occur. So far, the French military has seized three boats in the flotilla, including Greenpeace’s two main ships, but the group has vowed to send more boats to the area.
Legislators from Japan, Australia and New Zealand, meanwhile, prepared to leave Papeete aboard the New Zealand sailing ship Macchias for a three-day trip to the area around Mururoa Atoll, one of the test sites.
Some of those sailing to the area have crossed into the 12-mile exclusion zone around the atoll, a protest move some legislators say they plan to follow.
About 100 foreign lawmakers marched in Papeete with about 3,000 demonstrators over the weekend, but French Polynesia’s territorial president, Gaston Flosse, refused to meet with them.
“It is interference in domestic affairs and the political debate in French Polynesia,” Flosse said in a statement.
The French Foreign Ministry denounced Japanese Finance Minister Masayoshi Takemura’s participation in the Papeete demonstration as an “act of inadmissible interference.”
The ministry summoned Japan’s charge d’affaires and kept its own ambassador to Japan in Paris for consultations.
France also complained to Sweden for letting its culture minister, Margot Wallstrom, participate in the demonstration.
New Zealand’s Foreign Ministry called in French Ambassador Jacques le Blanc on Tuesday to protest that French forces used excessive force against Greenpeace protesters during the seizure of a protest ship last week.
Australia and the Netherlands lodged similar protests Monday.
Chirac has faced an outcry by governments and antinuclear activists around the world since June, when he announced that seven or eight test blasts would be conducted between September and May at Mururoa and Fangataufa atolls.
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