Greenpeace three 'still near nuclear test site'

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The environmental organisation Greenpeace said yesterday that three activists were still in the vicinity of the French nuclear test site in the South Pacific, despite statements by French military officials to the contrary.

Greenpeace and the French military have been playing a cat-and-mouse game around the Mururoa atoll since the French navy boarded the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior II 10 days ago, forcing it out of the French exclusion zone.

News of the three activists, David McTaggart, a Canadian co-founder of Greenpeace, Chris Robinson, an Australian, and a New Zealander, Henk Haazen, came from Greenpeace spokesman Stephanie Mills, who is on board the Rainbow Warrior II now sailing towards Fiji. She said Mr McTaggart had been in contact with the ship."The contact was very brief. They are safe and well, that is about the sum total of what I can tell you." She said they had enough food and water and were still in the test zone.

This was the second contact reported with the three since they disappeared during the French operation to seize the Rainbow Warrior. They were said to have sped off in one of five Zodiac inflatable speedboats kept on the ship.

French military officials had expressed doubt about the existence of the fifth Zodiac. Vice-Admiral Philippe Euverte, commander of the armed forces in French Polynesia, went on the record saying: "Either the Greenpeace activists are very, very strong, or they are not there. You should not overestimate their capabilities."

Admiral Euverte was speaking after a painstaking operation to search the lagoon.