Arnhem blast tied to French N-tests



Arnhem - A bomb exploded at a building housing the offices of the French bank Paribas and France's honourary consul in Arnhem. Dutch police said yesterday it may have been a protest against French nuclear tests.

The bomb badly damaged the building and blew out windows up to 100 yards away late on Tuesday night, but no one was injured, a police spokesman said.

He added that the damage indicated a fairly large device. "We haven't had any calls claiming responsibility, although we believe it could be related to protests against French [nuclear] weapons testing in the Pacific. We cannot prove that, but there has been worldwide protest against the French tests and we're guessing there's a link there."

Benoit Monseignon, chairman of Banque Paribas NV in the Netherlands, declined to comment on the motive for the attack. But he said the company was tightening up security at its network of nine Dutch branches, which mainly offer corporate banking. "We're doing what is necessary ... But if someone sends you a bomb in the middle of the night there's not a lot you can do about it," Mr Monseignon said.

The police said they were investigating whether the explosion could be linked to a bomb attack last October on the Arnhem office of Credit Lyonnais, another French bank.

"No one claimed responsibility for that attack and it's a point of the investigation to see whether there is any link," the spokesman said.

Asked about a possible connection to French nuclear weapons testing, a French embassy spokesman in The Hague said: "It's only a possibility, nothing is sure."

The decision by the French President, Jacques Chirac, last year to resume nuclear tests in the south Pacific touched off protests around the world. Protesters have mainly confined themselves to peaceful demonstrations and boycotts of French products.