French nuclear test row grows

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The Independent Online
Australia yesterday intensified its campaign against France's decision to resume nuclear weapons testing in the South Pacific by withdrawing its ambassador in Paris and suspending uranium sales and defence contacts.

At the same time, The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU, Australia's TUC) broadened its campaign by announcing a ban on mail delivery to the French embassy and consulates, interrupting their communications, "interfering" in the servicing of French ships and aircraft and refusing to serve French products on Qantas, the Australian airline.

Martin Ferguson, the council's president, said: "The ACTU believes that the Australian people themselves must mobilise by taking a personal stand through boycotting French goods, petitioning President Chirac or becoming involved with one of the many groups protesting against the renewal of testing.

"The arrogance of the French government requires that the union movement act decisively in association with the Australian community and our region to express our opposition to the Chirac government's colonialist contempt for the health and welfare of the Pacific region and its people.''

Paul Keating, the Prime Minister, announced the withdrawal of Alan Brown, Australia's ambassador to France, together with Australia's senior defence representative in Paris, amid mounting public furore following Mr Chirac's decision last week to conduct eight underground nuclear tests between September and May at Mururoa Atoll in French Polynesia.

Canberra will suspend attendance by French students at Australian defence training colleges and visits by its navy ships to New Caledonia and other French Pacific territories. It will embrace the member countries of the South Pacific Forum in its campaign by calling regional meetings to discuss the environmental impact of the tests, boycotting the South Pacific Games, to be held in French Polynesia in August, and suspending France's forum status.

"We are determined to do everything we possibly and reasonably can to ensure that France understands the nature and extent of Australian and South Pacific opposition to its test resumption decision," Mr Keating said. The Australian and New Zealand governments have been trying to tread a fine line between responding to vociferous public outcry and not cutting trade and investment links. His package pointedly excluded bans on trade.