French turn their backs on anti-nuclear rally

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The Independent Online
Paris - As the first three boats in an anti-nuclear flotilla to Mururoa Atoll set sail from New Zealand yesterday, the French showed the limits of their opposition to President Jacques Chirac's decision to resume nuclear testing by staying away from a Hiroshima Day anti- nuclear rally in central Paris, writes Mary Dejevsky.

Less than 3,000 people attended and there was a conspicuous foreign, especially Australian, presence. A big green banner showing a giantkangaroo said: "Love the French, hate nuclear tests."

The poor turn-out was attributable to summer heat and the flight of Parisians from the capital in August. But it proved that while a majority of voters may disagree in principle with Mr Chirac - 60 per cent, according to an opinion poll last week - when it comes to turning out on a hot Sunday afternoon in August, they have better things to do.

Banners called for a non- nuclear world, with the names of more than 100 supporting groups, including the Communists, Greens, and lobby groups for the homeless, illegal immigrants, animal rights and others.

It was left to amateur poster-designers to attack the French government by name. "If nuclear tests are so safe," said one, "why don't you conduct them in the Correze?" (Mr Chirac's home region). T-shirts on the theme of "Hirochirac" proliferated, such as "Hiroshima 1945 - Mururoa 1995".